Who am I?

Jessica-Chapman-Header

Jessica… Who is Jessica?

I have been meaning to join KiKi & Tea as a contributor since the website was founded but one thing stopped me: share a little biographical information. I just sat there, staring at the blank field as if it was a semi-trailer hurtling toward me and I the deer; about to be squished. Who am I? It should be the easiest question to answer; all it requires if for me to know myself. And I know myself better than anyone else. And yet I can’t write a twenty word bio of myself that I am satisfied with.

Every time I try to start with the basics, Occupation? Uhh I don’t really have one at the moment. I guess I could say writer but that implies that someone actually pays me for words and they don’t. Explaining that I have spent the years since high school pursuing my dream of writing a novel and getting two degrees seems to be too many words. I could say receptionist as that was the last thing I did for money but that doesn’t really define me. So, moving on, next question.

I could spout facts about myself: I was born in New Zealand but was only there for five days, I get sunburnt really easily, I have a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing. My shoe size is somewhere in between a ladies 8 ½ and 9. My hair is naturally brown, my nails are oddly sharp. I am a night owl, my room is messy, I don’t like oreos or other cream filled biscuits, I really like carrots as long as they are raw. But my physical description and personal preferences don’t really provide all that much insight as to who I really am.

In order to give myself some direction I went and read what other people had written. That was a bit like going to someone else to tell you what your childhood was like. One thing I noticed though was that a lot of people defined themselves by their relationships (wife/mother etc). I like the idea of being defined by what you are to people closest to you. So what am I? I am daughter, well that’s a pretty weird thing to describe yourself as, seeing as most people would have to assume that being human and female (as I assure you I am) I would have to be someone’s daughter, it’s a bit of a default setting. Describing myself as a friend is also a bit strange, implying that I am such a social pariah I have to state that I have friends. Pet owner? It’s getting progressively weirder. So, no relationship descriptions. Next topic.

How about my interests? Writing, maybe I should list some more… The problem with that is I worry that I will be pigeon holed by whatever I say. If I say that I am interested in fashion people might assume that I am shallow and stuck-up, like Emily from The Devil Wears Prada, or nearly any other media depiction of someone who is interested in fashion. Worse still they might expect me to look like a model and be horribly shocked when they meet me and I’m wearing daggy jeans, a curry stained T-Shirt and absolutely no make up.

If I say I am interested in photography and art people will expect me to either be actually good at those things or one of those pretentious people who think making an image black and white automatically makes me arty.

If I say I like food then people might expect me to be able to cook and then be surprised that I am a vegetarian. If I say that I’m a vegetarian will people think that I am a hemp-wearing, tofu-eating, dirty-footed hippie or a self-righteous vegan who won’t wear wool or leather? (Not that I think there is anything wrong with any of those things, it’s just not who I am.)

If I said I was shy or an introvert would people be surprised when I had no problem with public speaking? Or when I said that a week completely on my own sent me a little bit mad.

I’d really like to be able to proudly describe myself as a Christian or an Adventist but that just comes with so much baggage on what opinions I should have, and would it deny the fact that I am quite the cynic? Mostly I’m afraid that it would imply that I am sitting on my uncomfortable pew judging and condemning everyone, or that I hate logic and rationality. Not that I would ever assume that myself, I just don’t want to identify with the negative connotations that some people have with those words.

And don’t get me started on what you might assume if I identified myself as a feminist.

I have always had difficulty with definitions. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I am afraid that if I pinned myself down to a definition then I would be normal and not the unique and eccentric person I fancy myself to be. But I think it’s more than that. I feel that as soon as I say I am one thing I’d be saying I wasn’t something else and what if I turned out to be that too? If I say I am girly because I like pretty things I feel like I’m denying my slightly more masculine traits, like my dislike of houses that value aesthetics over utility. I feel like definition is a wall I would build around myself and then be trapped in it. The wall wouldn’t allow me any movement to change or grow. I feel like I have to continue to be what I claim to be.

I know some people would say that I’m over-thinking the whole thing (to be honest I am an over-thinker, that much is fact) and that if I feel that those things identify who I am then I shouldn’t worry about what other people might think. But it’s not the conclusions some people may come to that worry me in themselves, it’s that they might form an idea of me and that idea would be wrong. I’m afraid of misrepresenting myself; I’m afraid of not being genuine. Authenticity is what I value the most in myself.

So this is the best I could do at describing who I am:

I am a writer, in that I would keep writing even if no one ever read what I wrote. I am a dreamer and am attempting to follow the dreams with the support of my terrific family. I have faith in the blunt face of my own scepticism. I like pretty shoes, but also sitting around in my pyjamas. Ingrained discrimination to sex, sexuality, religion or race really upsets me. I don’t like eating anything that had a face but I really like cheese and natural fabrics. I like to indulge myself creatively in a visual capacity but I’m usually disappointed with the results. And I hope that one day I may turn out to be the strange creative genius I thought I was as a child. But all of this is liable to change without notice.

Oh and my about me blurb at the bottom? I made my sister write that.

Do you have trouble articulating who you are? Do you find definitions limiting? Do you value authenticity?

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  • http://thrbjrn.com RupertG

    I always struggle with this too. I don’t feel defined by my profession (wait, am I still doing this 11 years on?). Most people don’t really want to hear my real opinions about things, so they can’t define me. Most of my thoughts/opinions/beliefs are contradictory anyway (can I call myself a Christian/Pagan/Atheist?). I get most stuck when people ask me where I am from. Do I say Denmark (my biological inheritance), the USA (where I was born, but then soon left), England (where I spent a large number of my formative years), or Australia (where I currently live)?

    Most people just make up their own definitions of who I am. They are inevitably wrong, but I just go with it because it makes them more comfortable and it saves me the trouble.

    I enjoyed this post. It made me think :)

    • Jessica Chapman

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      The problem with defining yourself by your opinions is that it leaves little room for them to change, which is when people get overly defensive of an opinion- they’re defending their identity more. I’d really like to think that I can change my opinions without having to change who I am.

      The whole nationality thing also messes me up a bit, I suppose I am technically Australian because both my parents are (although one is a fraction Danish), but I am just not the stereotypical Australian (Born in New Zealand, sun and beach hating, vegetarian and a teetotaller). Plus I like to think that my five years in Pakistan had a bearing on who I am.

      As to what other people think of me, I’m pretty sure most people think I’m a bit of a snob because of the whole shy thing, when really I’m too busy in my own imagination to be judging anyone else.

  • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

    I think I struggle with this too. Who am I? Well, I’m a wife, a stepmother, an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I’m not defined at all by my job (people don’t even know what my job is!)

    These days I say I’m a blogger. But only sometimes. I’m a singer, but mostly in cars. I could call myself an artist, because I’ve sold work, but I don’t create any art.

    … I’m me!

    • Jessica Chapman

      That is my favourite answer to the question who am I? I’m me, because it encompasses everything I am in one word.

  • http://explore.johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    Who am I? Well, what day is it? Am I grumpy JJ, silly JJ, selfish JJ, wise JJ, caring JJ, elitist JJ, loving JJ, reclusive JJ, extrovert JJ, stupid JJ, smart JJ, depressed JJ, manic JJ…I could be any of those things on any given day and never be the same JJ…

    • Jessica Chapman

      I’m the same, I can be very shy one day and over-assertive the next. I like that people are multifaceted otherwise getting to know people would be no fun and it would be difficult to sustain relationships without getting bored.

  • Hayley Ashman

    I think I like that I struggle to define myself. It means there are many aspects to my life and personailty.

    • Jessica Chapman

      Most of the time I like it too; it just becomes difficult when you get asked it in job interviews.

  • Maree Talidu

    Who am I? First and foremost, a child of God. After that it gets super complicated. I love what you said about defining yourself being like putting a wall up around you, because I think I have been guilty of this- when people have labelled me ‘tough’ or ‘hard’ or ‘mean’, I ran with it because it was easier than exposing the true me, who is a massive self indulgent sook.

    Jess when I think of you, one word jumps out: CLEVER. So clever in all the ways that matter. Not many people can pull ‘clever’ off with total authenticity, but you do. Oh and you make me laugh. Great post, made me think for sure.

    • Jessica Chapman

      It’s funny while I probably think I am clever it’s not a word I’d use to describe myself because it would feel like too much of a boast. While that might be false humility I think sometimes I find it much easier to accept compliments and labels from people I know and love, which is why I felt so much more comfortable using a bio that my sister had written rather than one I had written myself.

      I think I can be the same about letting people assume the worst of me, it’s easier to be a snob than a person deficient in the ability to socially interact.

      • Maree Talidu

        Trust me, when I think of ‘Jess’, I think clever. But that’s just a part of who you are, there’s so much more to you. Crafty wordsmith comes to mind!

  • http://Carlyfindlay.blogspot.com Carly Findlay

    Welcome Jessica! You are a beautiful writer with great hair to me!

    I dont have so much trouble defining myself. To others I am that red girl, but to me I am a daughter, friend, writer, appearance activist, music lover, Darren Hayes, Bob Evans and Callan Mulvey’s biggest fan, a foodie, an oft unrequited lover, a fashionista, a public servant, a dermatology patient, both introverted and extroverted, a go getter. Maybe I fit in many boxes.

    • Jessica Chapman

      Thank you. I think writer is is the one word that I am really comfortable wearing because it’s the one thing that hasn’t really changed, ever since I could read I was putting stories to paper. I think the credit for my hair has to go to my hairdresser though.

    • Maree Talidu

      Carly you might have to fight me for Callan Mulvey! So glad to have found another fan who appreciates how truly awesome he is!

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  • Jen

    Love this post and all the comments.

    I always loved doing ‘Who am I’ stuff at school, I guess cos I’m a bit of a snob, back in those days I described my family, pets and hobbies all of which I was very proud of.

    Today I am a christian, a SAHM and a very blssed person. I’m getting a warm fuzy feeling knowing that if I was depressed I would not be able to answer this, feels so good to be well and happy :)