16 December 2011

Who I Am

Who I Am

Part A) National Identity

            Perhaps there once was a day where the identity of Americans was more concrete and unified.  Maybe there was a day when people knew what it meant to be an American and were proud to be one.  Today, it seems as though that being “American” is not sufficient enough; just saying that you are American is not a telling clue as to who you are and what you believe in.  People now only identify with the parts of the media and culture that they decide they want assimilate to.  There is more of a choice when it comes to deciding “who you are.”

            Our national identity is withering away because children are being forced to grow up in a more self-sufficient lifestyle.  Life is no longer what it used to be like--the socioeconomic status of your parents may not be the same one you end up living in as an adult.  Less and less are families able to pass on businesses or acres of land to their children because of the poor economy.  Children are learning at a young age that nothing will be handed to them and they are being taught to focus less on the good of others, let alone of the nation, and focus more on the self.  Society is continually breeding new generations that are taught to be more selfish than the last.

            This harsh change in reality is not one that has to or even will remain with Americans throughout the years.  People are given the opportunity to change the lives of others every single day.  If more children are raised the way I was raised or if more educators dream of teaching children what it means to be a wholesome and generous American, than the national identity may find itself weaving back into our lives.  Instead of focusing on the negative aspects and stereotypes of the American identity, people should work toward creating a positive atmosphere in order to live more fulfilled and satisfying lives.

Part B) Beautiful Life

            My life is nothing short of beautiful.  I have had my fair share of ups and downs but every rocky road and every memorable day has in some way carved its way into my personal identity.  While I am still on the path to finding myself as a whole, I have a pretty solid idea of who I am at the core.  My identity can be broken down into three main categories--I am a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

            I am a “momma’s girl” with a strong presence of my father’s Italian blood.  My mom is one of my best friends.  She’s the one person I miss more than anyone when I am away at school.  She’s my rock and my angel all in one.  She has shaped me into being a compassionate and generous young lady.  My strong sense of empathy comes directly from my mother; I can always “feel” the emotions of everyone and anyone around me.  These empathetic emotions make me the understanding and thoughtful person that I am.  My father, on the other hand, has given me the irreplaceable traits of being an Italian woman.  I am loud and proud of it.  I can be outspoken, defensive, and stubborn.  And I will never deny that to anybody, unless I’m offended or being stubborn.  I can be high maintenance but that’s just part of me wanting to live in a nice and clean environment.  Some of these traits that make up my identity may sound negative to some people, and at times, they can be, but I embrace them and view them as a part of how I was raised and how I want to continue to live.

            I am a sister to the most amazing brother and sister.  I care for them in a way that only a middle child could.  My sister is two years older than me, and my brother is two years younger than me, so I am smack-dab in the middle.  I worry about the both of them as if they were my own children.  I am constantly thinking about what they are doing, where they are, whom they are with and what time they will be home.  I want them to be safe at all times and more than anything, I want them to be happy.  I would jump through hoops just to see them smile.  Being a middle child has definitely influenced my identity because it made me into a sharing, loving, worried, and organized person.

            I am a friend and a confidant.  My friends are my world.  The friends I’ve managed to keep from my hometown since being out of high school and the friends I’ve made at college over the past three years are comparable to the air that I breathe.  I need them just as much as they need me and we have such an inseparable bond; I wouldn’t trade in one day with them for all the riches in the world.  Part of my personable and friendly personality comes from just having people like these around.  These people make me want to be a better person, they make me want to help others, and they make me want to do great things in my life.  I get satisfaction out of knowing that I am dependable and that so many people know and trust in me enough to come to me with worries.  I want each one of my friends, near or far, to know that at the end of the day, they are needed and loved by me.  I always get teased for the amount of pictures that I take with my friends and my response is, “I want to document my life.”  I want to take these memories, these friendships, and these good times with me everywhere I go so that one day when I have my own family, I can explain to them that it was these people and these moments that influenced my identity.  I am corny and my heart is just too big for my chest.  These friendships are the shoelaces to my sneakers.

            My heart explodes with the love I have for my parents, my siblings and my friends.  My entire identity has developed because of these influences.  I am a stronger, happier, and healthier person inside and out.  I know my identity will be forever changing but for now, I am content with who I am and where I am headed in life.  After all, life is beautiful.

Part C) America, the Beautiful

            It is unfortunate to me that the overall American identity is mostly negative considering I see so much beauty all around me.  How can all of America be criticized and stereotyped in such horrible ways when my life seems so uplifting and generally positive?  The American identity should and needs to be changed.  There is no reason for us Americans to feel ashamed or hated when going to other countries for vacations or for work-related reasons.

The general consensus is that America is full of dumb, ignorant, fat, lazy people who are greedy and think they are better than everyone else.  It is almost amusing to know that our country is stereotyped like that yet, not one single person in my life in Rochester or in my life in Fredonia fit into those appalling categories.  Our identities are actually anything but those stereotypes listed.

             Every human being on this planet has experienced a bad day or two so there is no reason why our bad days should define our entire country.  So what if not every single American goes to school or has a 4.0?  Does every person in every other country earn Ph.D.’s?  If the answer is no, then we should not be considered dumb.  We can all be a little absent-minded or ignorant of other countries, peoples, and ideas that we do not fully understand ourselves.  Clearly, the countries that would define the American identity as “ignorant” are displaying some ignorance themselves considering everyone, all over, has a little bit of ignorance in one area or another.  Instead of being stereotyped as dumb and ignorant, I think America should be considered intelligent and still learning.  There are millions of very intelligent people in this country who do big things.  We have a strong government and even if they make choices that not everyone agrees with, at least we don’t have a tyrant for a president.  We are learning Americans.  We are constantly learning about new people, places, ideas and technologies.  Teachers are making efforts to inform their students about diverse cultures and encourage their students to travel with an open-mind, ready to soak up all of the new stimuli.

So what if there are some chubby people walking around?  Being overweight should not define us.  In all of my twenty-one years of life, not once have I ever thought that my weight is part of my identity.  I would never answer the question of “How would you describe your personal identity?” with “skinny.”  I cannot think of any of my family members or friends that would answer with, “My identity can be described as chubby.” Weight has nothing to do with identity rather physical appearance so if people are going to categorize Americans as fat than they could be categorized as shallow for only looking skin deep--then here we go again, we’re in a game of cat and mouse.  Calling each other names because our feelings got hurt.  If you looked past the physical appearance of Americans, you’d see good people with good intentions and that should be what defines us.  It’s what inside that counts.

Everyone in the world at one point or another has been greedy in some way.  Even I have been greedy before and I consider myself to be a very generous and open-minded person.  Sometimes life requires you to be a little greedy and take a little more than you give.  I don’t see Americans walking around taking from every single person they can, every chance they get, without ever giving back.  If an American has worked hard to get where they are, then they deserve what they earn and they deserve to spend it in any which way they want.  There are hundreds and thousands of charities in America so to say that we are greedy is beyond me.  Just taking a walk around a grocery store or a gas station, you’d see plenty of items that you could buy where some of the proceeds go to a charity.  If giving to charities make us greedy then we’re greedy Americans.

I have met very few people in my life that think they are better than everyone else and I can almost guarantee that they do not feel that they are better than everyone else in the entire world.  As a country that is mostly middle class, most Americans are raised knowing that there are some below us and some above us but that we should treat all with an equal amount of respect and kindness.  Confidence should not be mistaken for cockiness.  We are confident in our abilities to survive and thrive in this world--where’s the harm in that?  Americans might have a hard outer shell but we are softies inside, we do care about the well-being of others, we are understanding of the curves life throws people sometimes, and we are always willing to give a hand to someone in need.  Confident is a perfect word that can be used to define the American identity because that’s just what we are--positive--that we can do well for ourselves and for others. 

Why can’t America be stereotyped as something more positive?  Why do stereotypes always have to be so negative?  I think that has something to say about our world in general; every country would rather focus on the bad parts of everyone else’s country rather than trying to fix the issues that are going on right inside of their own homes.  The world would be a much more peaceful place if the people in it could just start seeing the good in others rather than the bad.

Part D) Beautiful Experiences

            My life in America has always been full of diversity.  I am almost unaware of how much diversity I have encountered until I really sit down to think about it.  I am lucky to be able to say that.  To be able to say that I know and have friends of different races, different preferences, different ideas and different beliefs from mine is beautiful.  The fact that I have not been sheltered from people different from myself is a blessing that oftentimes gets overlooked.

I grew up in a diverse neighborhood; my favorite neighbors when I was little were not only African-American, but also Jehovah's Witnesses.  Coming from a not-so religious family, I was always curious about theirs and how they lived.  I was taught early on that there are going to be people unlike me in my life and that those differences do not make me any better or worse.  I went to a decently diverse elementary school and an even more diverse high school.  There were never any racial issues or any discrimination against people who were gay or lesbian.  You were who you were and if you had a problem or didn’t like certain people, it wasn’t because of where they were born, it wasn’t because of their skin color, or their sexual preference; it was merely because you didn’t like some part of their personality or something even more miniscule like they stole your girlfriend/boyfriend.  Going away to college wasn’t much different than living in my hometown.  I have a diverse group of friends and I love every one of them just the same. 

            I cannot draw upon any personal experiences that can be considered revealing or suggestive about both my identity and American identity in general.  My life story has been standard and I have not encountered any “wow-ing” moments that have strengthened or weakened the sense I have of my own identity or that of America as a whole.  My American identities story is still in the making.  My moment has yet to come but it will and I can almost be sure that it will come once I start teaching in a classroom of my own.

            I chose to go to school to be a teacher because I want to make a difference.  If a stranger were to ask anyone that knows me why I want to be a teacher, the answer would come quickly and easily just because of my personal identity.  To be a teacher, one must be a passionate, loving and thoughtful person.  My personal opinions on American identities come from the drive to teach children to see the good in others.  Living in a country that is so often put down for a variety of (mostly shallow) reasons, it can be difficult for some children to see that they don’t fit into those categories and that they can mold themselves into any kind of person that they choose to.

            I am going to teach children of diverse backgrounds and of different needs.  I want to teach them that they are not dumb just for being an American.  I want to teach them that they are capable and as long as they have a willingness to learn, they will grow into a compassionate person.  I want to teach children that their weight or their level of extra-curricular activity cannot define them.  Children need to understand that body image is not everything and that physical beauty is temporary, while inner beauty is permanent.  Children grow up to be greedy adults when they are not given the opportunity to give back to their neighbors and to the world around them.  American children are not brought into this world being greedy.  Outside factors influence that trait and as a teacher, I will have ample opportunities to get my students to fall in love with the act of sharing and giving.  My classroom will be accepting of everyone, no matter the differences in race, heritage, or in socio-economic factors.  Every student is capable of learning and every child is deserving of equal respect and love as their neighbor.

My personal identity and my opinion on America’s identity are both solid when separated, I just have not experienced a time where they have collided into one.  These two will mesh once I am able to put my hopes of goodness and my dreams of happiness into my students’ minds.  Children’s identities are changing and being molded every single day.  Why not throw away the dirty glasses that have been given to Americans and trade them in for a clean pair of glasses to look through?  America holds much more beauty than it’s being given credit for.  As I have firmly stated before, the American stereotypes should and need to be changed.  Teaching children to try to be the best people they can be while seeking out the beauty in others will eventually turn these negatives into positives.  When it comes down to it, it is the children of today that impact tomorrow’s future.

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