All my life I’ve been drawn to the feeling of identity created by being born into a strong community or culture (it’s a basic human need that most of us share). My family didn’t have any strong religious or social connections and I’m a total “euro mutt” so I don’t really have a lineage to attach to. I admired my friends Phil and Steve who were born into a strong Sicilian family… they proudly wore a Sicilian flag on the collar of their Army Surplus flight jackets and they celebrated their heritage daily through the foods they ate, the music they listened to, and their decorations in their house. I found myself putting one foot into many different groups to help find this sense of identity. I joined an animal rights group, I went to a church youth group, and even toyed around with joining an anti-racist skin head group (that passed quickly!). Of course every group has a culture of how they dress, how they talk, what music they listen to, what they believe in, and how they interact with the world. Because I wanted to identify fully like my friends Phil and Steve did with their heritage, I bought the outfit, changed my musical taste, and adopted the actions and beliefs of each group. In each one, I found something I loved. I also found resistance to some of their principles or beliefs that didn’t resonate truth to me and soon made my way out of the culture. With every experience, I always took along what I loved and carried it with me. On a side note, none of this was something I was aware of at the time… the reason behind this search was not apparent to me.
This process has continued into my adult life. My work life mirrored my actions from childhood. As a sound and recording engineer I lived the culture of the music industry in every way. In stark contrast, when I became a hairdresser, a good portion of my identity shifted. I dawned a boy band manicured chin strap beard, started wearing tight black shiny t-shirts, and listening to trance music… needless to say, my friends that had been around me in my rock and roll phase were a bit surprised. Over the years, my Working Identity (also the title of an incredible book by Herminia Ibarra) shifted as I became a traveling educator/platform artist and again tried to immerse myself in the culture of that group.
Behind my work life, there were other compartments functioning simultaneously. I was also trying to identify with the motorcycle community, other spiritual groups, my band (which was still rock and roll), and even my more mountain man tendencies of fishing, hiking, etc. For each compartment, I had the outfit and I played the roll to fit the community. Again, there was something I absolutely loved and identified with in all areas as well as things that never resonated with me.
Over the past 5-7 years, I’ve slowly become more and more aware of this phenomenon within myself. Initially I judged it as a bad thing. Was it a flaw in my commitment to one thing, maybe a lack of self worth? It also made me judge the cultures I was connected to… maybe they weren’t “enough”, maybe there was something better, or somehow the culture was flawed. The search for something better always had one path though… right back to where I was already standing. This practice of dipping my feet into so many different ponds and only taking what was valuable to me when I stepped back out had formed me into the best version of myself.
The monster realization that has been creeping its way into my consciousness within this past year is this… there is only one flaw in my journey. That flaw is the need to compartmentalize these things as separate identities. I’m not a hairdresser, I’m not a life coach, I’m not a musician, I’m not a mountain man, I’m not a teacher, I’m not a motorcyclist, I’m not a friend, and I’m not a husband as individual identities… I am all of these things as one identity. The moment that cemented this all together was 2 weeks ago in my coaching session with Lyn. Of all things that could possibly cause this life altering “a-ha” moment, we were discussing my Instagram page. I’ve found myself very resistant to compartmentalizing my page into a separate personal page, a hair page, and a page for the Journeyist. I’ve been advised by many very intelligent people that I need to move in that direction, but every time I sit down to do it, I abandon the action before I even set up a new user name. To understand me as a hairdresser, you must also understand me as a person outside of the industry. To understand me as the Journeyist, you must be privy to my personal life. One does not exist without the other and in the short time I’ve lived with that belief, I’ve felt a level of comfort and relief I’ve never experienced in the past 38 years.
So, do I still yearn for that sense of belonging within a group? Absolutely! And, I continue to immerse myself deeply into everything I do to dig up the gold that lives within those experiences. What has changed is my need to adapt myself to the group… I just show up as myself.
If you show up to everything you do as a pure version of yourself (carrying all aspects of your life experience with you) you will not only reward those around you with the most complete version of you, you will also reap greater rewards for yourself in every experience.
Here’s your challenge if you are willing to do a little homeplay… create a small circle in the center of a piece of paper with your name in the circle. Create random circles branching off the center and fill those circles with everything you are… a father, a mother, your work, your hobbies, your beliefs, etc. From each of those branch off into what describes those identities. Keep the circles random and without hierarchy. When you’ve expanded all points thoroughly, step back and look at it as a whole… where do you show up as everything on that map? Where do you feel inauthentic because you don’t allow yourself to bring all of what you are with you? Create a small achievable action to incorporate more of your true self into that space… I promise the shift will set a new precedent in that space.
About the photography: I love photos with “shallow depth of field”. This is the effect you see where a narrow area is in focus and the rest blurs out. These photos are all from a recent trip with my good friend Brandon Fratto to the Uintah Mountain Range in Utah. That point of focus is where our eye goes, but that point of focus would not be as interesting if the rest of the picture did not exist in harmony.