Identity, Purpose and Other Nebulous Words

Identity, Purpose and Other Nebulous Words. Image credit: Geralt (Pixabay).The dictionary defines identity as “the characteristics determining who a person is.” While I certainly won’t argue with that, I find it too simplistic. Too vague. Identity consists of four things: Whose you are, who you are, whom you do life with, and a sense of where you’re going. While certainly not a definition, I think it sheds far more light on the concept of identity.

A common theme in YA literature is, of course, the protagonist’s coming of age. And at the heart of finding oneself, lies this issue of identity.

Identity, Purpose and Other Nebulous Words

Let’s have a look at each component in turn:

  • Whose we are: the imprint our parents, our culture and our faith base bears upon us.
  • Who we are: the characteristics that set us apart as unique.
  • Whom we share life with: the community in which we find relate and function.
  • Where we sense we’re going: the trajectory of our life’s purpose, providing meaning and context.

Of course, each element can (and should) have powerful, inspirational value to us. Sadly, often the opposite is true. A poor upbringing, confusion concerning our unique distinctiveness (and thus, contribution), a dysfunctional community, and an inability to see beyond our limitations lie at the root of so much psychological uncertainty and disorientation.

No, we’re not victims of these factors, nor are we machine churned by-products spat out, left to accept our fate. For every person who blames their crippled past, there is another who defies their handicaps, and through courageous choices, creates a brave new future.

And herein lies the crux of the matter. As the butterfly finds the strength to fly only by wrestling free of its cocoon; we find ourselves only as we battle through our past disadvantages and present sanctions. And it’s in this crucible that young-adult fiction comes alive.

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