Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Identity Crisis

On Saturday February 20, 2016 I became a sister for the fourth time. The first time, I was 2 years old and proudly held my newly born sister on my mom’s hospital bed. She would grow to first be my biggest annoyance and then my closest confidant. The second time, I was a sophomore in high school and cheerfully welcomed my adopted sister-to-be who would become for me a continual lesson in diversity, inclusion, and love. The third time, I was a freshman in college waiting with excited anticipation to be initiated into the engineering sorority with women who would become some of my closest friends to support me through the rigors and joys of college. And this fourth and probably last time, I nervously waited to process into the chapel of the Sisters of Notre Dame with Mayra as we prepared to become religious sisters. My identity was about to transform. Again.

Clockwise from top left: Me and my newborn sister; my adopted and biological sisters at my graduation; with my good friend and sorority sister; Mayra and I waiting to become novices

I once heard that in our society, we focus our identity on what we do rather than who we are at our core – which is a beloved child of God. So I challenged myself to turn my perspective around and ask, “who am I, undefined by what I do?” My response included how I act, what I value, and what I live for and toward.

I am a young woman…
who is kind, loving, and trusting.
I value setting examples and being a role model.
I am dedicated and passionate.
I am flawed, but created to be perfectly me.
I am a perfectionist learning to love imperfection.
I am an influencer of lives.

A year later, I went back and reflected on who I was at that moment. Since we are constantly growing, the expression of who we are changes, but the essence remains the same. Between these two reflections, I grew internally, but I also changed in outward identity. I went from student to career woman. From discerning to deciding.

I am a young woman…
who loves God more than anything.
who expresses that love by loving all people.
I love everyone and will fight for others to love everyone regardless of color, orientation, or situation.
I value laughter and joy.
I value compassion and kindness.
I am motivated by love to create and show love in this world.
I am His hands and feet.

And now where does that leave me? I find myself with a new outward identity as “Sister”, but what does that mean for me? Gone are the days of conformity in the convent, but I am often approached that way by lay people. They expect a holy little nun who teaches and spends the rest of her day in prayer. Well, all you get is me, with all of my humanness and my flaws. You get my joy and bubbling laughter at a good pun. You get my nerdy need to spout off facts I picked up from God-knows-where. And you get my youthful enthusiasm and desire to dress comfortably and with flair. People may not look at me and think “Oh, she’s a sister”, but that does not take away the fact that it is now a part of my identity. So how do I live into this new identity while still retaining the essence of who I am and who God created me to be, yet still make my new identity a part of my being? Who am I now, undefined by what I do?