A Sisterly View of Identity

My project, which asks participants to complete a “Candid Application,” is very connected to my experience in how to represent myself in applications. I think it says something about how I learned to value honesty when writing about myself and embrace parts of my identity that are a little fuzzy. I like that it blends parts of my professional/intellectual identity with more personal parts. In my portfolio I hope to achieve a similar balance, but actually articulating these particular identities is a little more difficult.

Although I seem to do it a lot, thinking about identity is not something I particularly enjoy. So when one of the options for this week was to have a family member describe me, I immediately pawned off the thinking to my sister. Over 22 years, our relationship has gone from best friend to annoying friend to mortal enemy and then slowly back to best friend. We always joke that her moving back to Australia and having 9,429 miles between us was the best thing for our relationship. At this point we spend a ridiculous amount of time together on FaceTime, sometimes in deep conversation and sometimes just as background noise. So if there was anyone to reveal aspects of my identity I don’t notice, it would be her.

Me and my sister at her wedding. This is our default face when we are together, just without professional makeup.
Libby and me at her wedding. This is our default face when we are together, just without professional makeup.

My sister took this assignment very seriously and returned with a dissertation on “Julia”:

Julia is a strong minded, opinionated and determined woman. If she wants something she will work hard and achieve it. Nothing gets in her way (besides hunger or a new Netflix show). She’s witty, smart, has a killer bitch face and can pull off red hot lipstick.

She is an individual. Every Halloween she proudly dress up as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Julia is honest. She will tell you your outfit is the wrong colour or if it doesn’t suit you. Julia is kind and sensitive. She is a compassionate listener and supportive friend. She always has time for the people she loves.

Julia is not a follower, she is a leader. Even though she’s my baby sister, she’s someone I proudly follow.

I was blown away by my sister’s loving description. She quickly reminded me this is what she does for a living as a school teacher (“Jimmy is an independent and creative learner” etc.). Even so, Libby delivered on what I know she could do, explaining parts of my identity that I overlook. Libby’s first paragraph is what I tend to focus on in my personality, my intellectual goals and almost neurotic determination. It is a huge part of my identity, but I’m not a sociopath. I joke that I don’t need a lot of friends, which is largely true, but those relationships are incredibly important to me. Libby’s description reminds me that I can be an individual while also being intimately connected to others.

This exercise was enormously helpful for my portfolio because left up to me, I would have thought about my identity superficially. Words of Libby’s that I’ll want to refer to for my portfolio include: determined, individual, compassionate, supportive. Now, I have a document to look back to that explains the complexity of my identity, written by someone who knows and loves me greatly.

2 thoughts to “A Sisterly View of Identity”

  1. Julia,

    I loved reading this blog post! It gave me such a window into who you are. I adore this picture of the two of you and think it would be fun to include it on your portfolio somewhere! Here’s an idea…I think your honesty in this post is engaging and charming. I loved how candid you were about the fact that you don’t like to think about who you are and that the people you have chosen to deeply invest in can do it better than you can. On the “About Me” section, you could even talk about your struggle with thinking and writing about yourself and include excerpts (each with a fun picture like this one) with a few short words on who you are. Then you could sum it up at the end. It would be a fun way to do the “About Me” without using the default “here I’m talking about who I am and trying to be witty with word and picture choice” approach. Just an idea!

    See ya Monday!

  2. Julia,

    First of all, your blog post is endearing and was fun to read. I like how, in the end, you have singled out words from your sister’s description of you that you plan to incorporate into your portfolio as representative of your identity. I also think, though, that you should play with the other kinds of comments she made (i.e. “Nothing gets in her way (besides hunger or a new Netflix show)” and “…has a killer bitch face and can pull off red hot lipstick”). The comment about the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Halloween costume was another good one, by the way. Just as your project is about being candid in applications, you should try to be as candid as possible in presenting yourself in your portfolio. Think about including facts about yourself that you would never normally consider including, such as these fun things your sister has pointed out. I think it will be good for you to be a little liberal with all of this instead of conservative (regardless of political affiliations *wink face*). I’ve also been working on being honest, which tends to expose my quirks, if my writing and comments are not evidence enough. I’m positive you are going to make something great and I hope you will push your boundaries a little in doing so.

    In the name of looking at things differently, here is a loosely related quote:

    “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln (AKA The Man)

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