19 December 2011

Identity of an Atypical College Student

Identity of an Atypical College Student

What Is an Identity?

It is defined as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. This is an identity in its simplest form. So, I set out on a quest to find my identity and in turn find out what it means to be me. An identity should be important for every person to realize about themselves because self-realization is crucial to being a good person.

My First Identifying Factor

 I would identify myself as an American. I was born here, my parents were born here, and my grandparents were born here. That makes me American. My ancestors are Irish and Italian, but that doesn’t make me Irish or Italian. It is unfair to the people who are those ethnicities to say that I am one of them. It is comparable to saying that I was on a championship winning team when in reality I was on that team years after they won the championship and did not actually earn it myself. Sometimes people forget that they have never actually been to the country that they associate themselves with. If you were to ask them anything about the country that they are from they are likely not to know the answer. If you ask them something about America, they have a greater chance of getting the answer right, but they still would not consider themselves American if asked the question.

After realizing that I am indeed American I must ask myself what it means to be American. Being American brings on great responsibility. You have to act perfect all the time when interacting with people from different countries because Americans are scrutinized the most out of all. America is the number one leader on the world stage and that means that a lot of eyes are on what America does. It also means that many aspects of globalization are strongly linked to Americanization. America is seen as too big to fail because if America does poorly, then the rest of the world might do poorly. America has used this philosophy on their own banks recently knowing that they needed to be bailed out in order for America to keep functioning properly. The fact that America is too big to fail means that a lot of people are relying on America to do well and therefore are looking at with more scrutiny. I know that when I visit other countries that I must be on my best behavior because people are always trying to make Americans out to be the bad guys. It comes with the territory and I realize this.

This isn’t the only thing that being American entails; it also includes a higher standard of living and with this higher standard comes more opportunity to help others. There are plenty of opportunities to help other people in other countries who were not fortunate enough to be able to help themselves. This is something that I know is included with my identity and I try to embrace it in any way possible. It is hard to do work for people in other countries, but I try my best to help people in need. I love being American and I would choose no other fate for myself. It is a blessing to be born in the greatest country in the world and that is why I find it unfathomable that people choose to say they are other ethnicities.

My Second Identifying Factor

            I am a white male. I group these two together because throughout history they have been considered one identifying factor. This is an obvious characteristic of mine that is clearly visible by all. Race can be an important thing is someone’s life and is different from an ethnicity. Ethnicity refers to cultural characteristics, location, and beliefs. Race refers to a person's appearance and has biological underpinnings. They are commonly mistaken to mean the same thing, but in reality they are vastly different.

            Race is something that I have dealt with a lot in my years. My uncle was adopted from the Philippines, but he looks black. When I was younger and I walked around with him, people would think he was my dad and it was looked down upon. I was clearly white and the fact that I was with him implied interracial relations. It didn’t really occur to me then, but people really do not like the idea that a black man could be with anyone except a black woman. I have no negative connotations of African American people, but that is because I was raised to know better. I do understand how people can grow up with the negative feelings towards black people because of how they were raised. If someone is told their whole life that African American people are the enemy and that they are people of lesser importance than they are obviously going to have bad feelings towards them. I was fortunate enough to be raised correctly and not to discriminate, but many people in this country are not as fortunate as I.

My Third Identifying Factor

I would identify myself as someone who is “settled down.” I have a fiancĂ© and have been with her for over 5 years. We are extremely happy, but it is rare that someone at my age settles down with one individual, especially in a college setting. This aspect of my identity is crucial because it makes me change things about myself. I realize that I need to be more conscientious about my money because I need to save enough to support both of us in the future. Also I realize that a relationship is give and take, and I need to compromise with her on some views.

            Being in college itself is an identifying factor. The American College Kid has a certain stereotype that is mostly negative. A college male in America is supposed to follow one of two paths. A person can join a frat and live through college getting drunk regularly, have multiple women in his life, and own fancy things. This person is not prepared for life in the slightest. They never do any work, they don’t worry about what alcohol is doing to their system and they think that a tough day is one that they actually go to every class. This isn’t typical, but it is one of the college male stereotypes. The other version of a college student is the typical stoner. This is the one that never does any work and is too “baked” to think coherently. They do not care what others think and they are the ones that go to rallies and parties during class just because they have those set for their priorities. Neither of these two stereotypes are positive ones, but they are the typical ones portrayed in the mainstream movies and shows that are seen globally.

            My specific experience with the American identity of the college male has to do with the fact that I am engaged. Not many people my age get engaged, and when they do it is often frowned upon at this stage in life. People always say that I am throwing my life away. To those people I say that I am just starting it earlier than most. It is much better to start living at a young age and being with her makes me feel good. Sometimes people wonder why I would commit at my age and ask me how I know she is the one. I really dislike hearing these questions all the time. The people that know us do support us and that is really all that matters, but it goes against the mold. It goes against the stereotype of the typical college male, and most people do not like change.

            Another thing that goes against most college stereotypes is the fact that I do not drink. I have never been drunk or gone to a bar with the goal of getting drunk. This is weird to my friends because, like many college students, they get drunk 2 nights a week. I prefer to stay inside and watch a movie or play a game and remember what I did that night. This isn’t typical, but it is preferable. It is often looked down upon by the people that I am closest to.

Yet another college male stereotype that I do not fit is the all-nighter. I have never had to put myself through an all-night study or work session like it is portrayed in many movies. I believe it is more important to sleep than it is to study and there have been many studies that would back that idea up. There are many people that I have seen that do these study sessions but it really is not beneficial. I do procrastinate, but I try not to procrastinate to the point where I have to cram for an entire night, which leads to the next topic, coffee!

            I absolutely hate coffee. The smell of it is bad, the taste of it is bad, and the effects are bad. It is not great for your body but there really aren’t many things that can wake you up without a large amount of caffeine. I am a soda drinker which isn’t much better, but the stereotype says that I should cram for tests all night with a large cup of java in hand. My fiancĂ© does live on coffee so we often feud about the effects and the usage purposes of it. She usually wins.

Fourth Identifying Factor

            I would identify myself as a geek. The term geek is very specific. It refers to someone who is interested in things that others are not commonly interested in. A geek is smart, but unlike a nerd or a dork they are also socially adept. A common misconception is that they are not good at working with people, but in reality they are. I classify myself as such because I am into sports and hanging out with people, but I also love working on computers. That is my hobby and it is the thing that interests me, but does not interest many others.

            I love being a geek. I enjoy video games across multiple platforms and I enjoy working with technology. Being a geek also comes with some negatives. In my experience, geeks are usually a bit more unkempt and have a hard time caring about physical appearance. When people find out that I am a computer technician they often put these images into the back of their head. It isn’t truly accurate or a fair representation of being a geek, but it is a misconception that is prominent in today’s society.

General American Stereotypes

            (1) There are many misconceptions about America that are portrayed in stereotype from, but many of the stereotypes about America are actually pretty accurate. Americans are known as being greatly obese. This obesity epidemic is fairly recent, and is actually pretty true. Americans seem to be a bit larger than their English counterparts. They have greater access to fatty foods and food in general than most other countries. In America fatty food is rather inexpensive whereas the fruits and veggies can cost quite a bit more. This may be the reason that Americans are seen as larger than other people globally. This is seen throughout my own experiences because I too am a bit larger than most. I eat these fatty foods because I can afford them, and I eat food on campus which is generally less healthy than food found elsewhere.

            (2) Another stereotype about America is that we do not care about other countries. In general this seems to be true also. I personally know quite a bit about other countries because I am a history major and other countries intrigue me, but my peers seem to know very little about the world outside of America. This, like most things, has an explanation. People in America do not converse with many people in other countries because we do not border very many unlike European countries. We also cannot move freely between countries like they can in Europe. There is a passport and a long wait in order to get to Canada or Mexico and honestly many people would rather stay in America than venture forth into sometimes hazardous Mexico. Some people do go to Canada, but it isn’t a trip that can be made often and usually people do not go there for an extended period of time. If people want to visit other countries in Europe they can do so rather inexpensively and without much hassle.

Another example of the blindness of America is that people who live in the United States often forget that they are not the only country in America. They forget that there is a North and South America and as you can see in my paper I am a perpetrator of this. I usually just say America because it is simpler and easier, but really it is because I do honestly forget to acknowledge the other American countries.

            (3) One of the only American stereotypes that actually irks me is the one about Rednecks. It isn’t fair to refer to everyone in the South as a redneck. I was born in Louisiana and lived there for a while and the people down there are just as sophisticated as the ones in the North. Most people do not even know what it means to be a redneck. It really isn’t a bad thing to be a redneck and in some parts of the country it is the highest form of flattery. Some people love hunting, fishing, drinking, and being ignorant to all other issues. Ignorance is bliss and it makes them happy not to worry about many problems that they usually have no control over. Americans often are too stressed about things that they cannot change and therefore have stress that isn’t warranted. I am one of those people. I always worry about things that I cannot change. I realize it isn’t something that I should do, but unfortunately I am not ignorant to the issues of the world and therefore I focus on them.

(4) One of the stereotypes that I am unfortunately adding to is that Americans need things bigger and better. When a new technology comes out I must have it. When I look for a car or a house I must have the best, but why? Why does it really matter if I have a car that looks nicer than you? Is it to make you jealous? I honestly have no answer to these questions, but it might be because I am ignoring them so that I do not feel bad for taking part in it.  If I have a car that runs and a house that is good for shelter, then I should be happy. Unfortunately this is not how many Americans think. They always want better things than the person next to them. Americans were actually upset when the new iPhone came out because it looked like the old one and nobody would know that they had upgraded. This idea is ridiculous. If it works better, then you should get it, but do not get it just so that other people know that you upgraded.

(5) One stereotype that is similar to one mentioned earlier is that Americans are lazy. This is similar to obese Americans, but is different on so many levels mostly because of technology. Before computers and machines, people had to do physical labor to get by, but now people can sit at a machine and push buttons. This means they can be obese and it won’t really affect their work ethic. The thing that I would say I would identify with the most is a hard worker. I move up fast in any job that I have and I achieve high accolades no matter what the job is. It’s not that I can do my job better than anyone else, it’s just that I try harder to do better. If I do not know something I try to learn it and I typically learn what I need to do fairly quickly. I am a Resnet technician and when I went into the job I honestly did not know all that much about computers. Within one year I became student manager and had learned everything that there was to know at the position. It was a great experience, but I feel as if it is time to move on because there is no more challenge, which leads me to my next point.

Final Thoughts

            Is there anything more annoying and diverse as an American? I would have to say no. Americans are so diverse that they can annoy people on different levels. They can be too loud and pushy like a “New Yorker.” They can be too stupid and slutty like the “Dumb Blonde” girl that we all knew in high school. They can constantly be talking about killing deer and driving around in their pickup truck with a shotgun like the “Redneck.” Or they can be getting drunk and saying “bro” all the time like the “typical college kid.” Of course these aren’t accurate representations of America, but it’s what makes America what it is today. It is diverse, it is constantly changing, it is sometimes oblivious to actual problems, and it is constantly using force to prove points.

All of these stereotypes are obviously a bit exaggerated, but they all serve to show what America is. It isn’t all of what America is, but it is a part of America and they show the culture of America. Other countries have stereotypes that they aren’t proud of but it shows what they are made of. One example is that Swedish girls are among the most promiscuous. This isn’t a positive stereotype but it does tell us something about Swedish culture. The people in Sweden actually see promiscuity different than in America and the people in Sweden simply do not care if the girls dress in “skimpy” clothing. I found this out working as an intern for schools in Sweden.

The term American identity is rooted in enlightenment ideals. Out of the enlightenment came many ideas and a new way of thinking. The main thing was a belief in the individual, and this led to romanticism and consequently romantic nationalism. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a leader in this area of thinking and one of the main ideas that he had was that people should identify with their country rather then themselves and that their country is the individual which should be fought for. The idea of a national identity comes from beliefs rooted in the early 1700s and it still exists today.

I think that the idea of American Identities is a horrible one because it creates strife and stereotypes that may not exist otherwise. Without creating specific identities for people there might be more unity. If there were less ways to single people out from others then there might be less discrimination, which would be good for all. Obviously the idea of an identity is inescapable, but it's always good to think “what if?”

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