Saturday, November 28, 2009

(I) is for identity

About ten years ago at Twin Oaks Community I wrote on a 3 x 5 notecard announcing to the world that my new name is henceforth "(I)An-ok", which is pronounced "Yan-ock". Since then I have traveled all over the country meeting all kinds of different people, introducing myself to them as "(I)An-ok".

Nowadays, after all that time, I commonly introduce myself to others using my original and legal name, which is "Ian". Increasingly those who know me by "(I)An-ok" are making the switch back as well. "(I)An-ok" is dying.

I adopted "(I)An-ok" for a very important reason - I was creating my own new identity for myself. I objected to how others saw me previously, as well as to how I saw myself. I saw "Ian" as representing passiveness, acceptance of the status quo, and bland un-original conformity. I began at that point a decade-long quest to re-create and re-define myself in opposition to how my parents molded me as well as in opposition to how the world-at-large constructed me. I wanted to be a new person and to live a life that is radically different from everything that I had ever known before. I wanted to live outside of what most folks even considered possible.

The name in itself signified something of a unity and identification taking place between myself with the philosophy of anarchism. I didn't think about it this way explicitly as such, but on a very core & fundamental level that was the case. The name is a combination & synthesis of my original name "Ian" together with the word "anok", which is a little-known punk rock abbreviation for "anarchist", "anarchy", things of that nature. My name did not explicitly "mean" that, I usually told others that "(I)An-ok" did not actually "mean anything" per se. But on a deep level, it did.

That all feels over, or mostly-over, for me now. One reason is that increasingly I find very little to gain of value by holding onto "anarchist" as an identity for myself. A friend once told me that he essentially had anarchist views but that he never refers to himself as one. He said that to introduce oneself to a stranger by identifying yourself as an "anarchist" is for many folks the equivalent of meeting a stranger and saying, "hello, I am a violent asshole". It simply is just way too much work to clear up that kind of initial misunderstanding, so it's best to start out some other way.

I feel as if I am entering a new phase of my life now in terms of how I see myself, how I would like others to see me, and more importantly in terms of the general underlying sense or feeling that is moving through me in what I do. For most of the last ten years of life I have felt a general underlying sense of opposition or desire to destroy all that is around me (in terms of social institutions, life-styles, standard operating procedures) and now - I yearn for more peace, acceptance, and stability throughout all that I do.

That all being said, I really do not feel the drive to identify myself with any particular group, belief system, cause, ideology or movement. There are many different things that I like, many different things that I have identified myself with in the past. But now, the whole thing seems like a receipe for disaster. I say this because every belief system is limited, every person is fallible, and everything is impermanent. To identify with something like this is to set oneself up for needless suffering - something which I have put myself through again and again repeatedly these past ten plus years.

So there are many different things taking place all at once here:

For one I no longer feel the great burning desire for myself to stand out, to be unique, "to make a name for myself" so-to-speak.

At the same time I do not feel a particular affinity for that which falls under the name of "anarchist" above or beyond other labels, belief-systems, and ideology-based social scenes that I also have affinity with.

And I do not feel a particular desire to identify myself with any particular belief system for I see that as a way in which one creates unnecessary suffering for oneself.

As a result of all of this, "Ian" emerges once again. I've been around a bit, through a bunch, with a few others, and here I am again.

Now I'm back to where I started.

But not really.


Jeanell said...

As a person who met you at the beginning of your name transition, I first saw I(An)Ok only in writing, and it made me think "Ian is OK" and I thought it was kinda weird but kinda endearing. I am glad to hear about your process coming full circle. Ian is a good name :)

cheekyboots said...

Ian is more user-friendly. =)
Which makes you more approachable to me.

I think people identify with groups as a strategy to meet their need for belonging. But at the cost of other needs as you've mentioned.

I used to look at those kinds of groups and want to have that sense of belonging and having a 'tribe'. But I never fit into any of them very well. But eventually I got a more grounded sense of belonging to myself, to the planet, and the Universe.

BroadSnark said...

I'm not usually one for sticking myself under an ideological umbrella word, but I do identify myself as an anarchist. The thing about being a very non-threatening, every day looking, middle aged lady is that people hear I'm an anarchist and immediately start thinking - maybe anarchism isn't what I thought it was.

mercedes said...

ive enjoyed reading this Ian, i like the authenticity and evolution of your being. xx Mercedes

Bel said...

I really enjoyed reading your insights into yourself. I feel a sense of happiness and endearing comfort when I imagine you to be finding peace in belonging to simply "life", rather than any particular cause, ideology, technique. Of course this simply reminds me too of my own journey and it astounds me again of the parallel lines that run through our lives.

Thanks for taking the time to share and increasing my own self connection.