New Identities

We all incorporate different aspects of our lives into the “identity” we share with the world around us. Who you are is made up of lots of things: your gender, your family, your school or work, your nationality, your political or religious views (or lack thereof), and so on.

What’s really interesting to me is when you incorporate new aspects of your changing life into your identity, and you can (for a time at least) seem like a very different person all of a sudden.

I remember being at a large training session full of executives at my company, helping to educate them about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in the workplace. One very senior executive, who I knew well and who is supportive of her LGBT teammates, asked me why people “come out of the closet” and suddenly want to spend all of their time with new gay friends, leaving their straight friends in the dust.

I had never considered that phenomenon before, but I immediately offered a comparison she could relate to: when you start work at a new company, or join a new church, or have a major life change like becoming a parent, you tend to latch on to other people who share your new development. You find like-minded folks who can relate to your excitement over your new situation, and you develop new friendships with them. And then, often times, after the novelty wears off a little, you find yourself incorporating these new friends into your life alongside the ones that you may have neglected for a short while.

To drive the point home, I asked her which people she spent a lot of time with when she and her husband had their child: did they hang out with the same friends, or did they find themselves bonding with other new parents with what little free time they had?

For me, this point has become very apparent to me over the last month or so. Having gone through Raft Guide School with Sal and seven other classmates, I suddenly found that a lot of my free time was spent with those folks. (Granted, most of that time together is up at the Center practicing our new skills, not necessarily a lot of outside social interaction, but still…) And having completed all of the classes, I find myself focused on getting to know other raft guides there and spending time socially with them.

It does seem like I’ve focused my attention so much on these new friends and the new experiences we’re sharing, but I’m making an effort to stay connected to the friends who’ve been here with me for awhile now. I have to temper my excitement about new friends with the easygoing, comfortable happiness that pre-existing friends can share. (This awareness doesn’t seem to help me stop rambling on about rafting to my non-raft-guide friends, but fortunately they are at least tolerating my current fixation for the time being.)

And in the midst of this balancing act, I’m heading to Florida for the better part of a week to see my REALLY long-term friends, the people I grew up with and only get to see a couple of times each year.

Being sociable sure does require time and effort, y’know? Especially with all of these “identity” components floating around.

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