How Many Identities Do You Have?

Taking on a new identity means exploring an exhilaratingly badass side of myself that I never knew existed. Photo: Phillips Photos

Adopting a new name has created a big aha moment for me: I already have many identities and my newly adopted identity as ☀️💛 is only one. This morning, I jotted down all of my various identities, and I was astounded at the number. Here goes:

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend, Writer, Content Director, Advocate, Congregant, Spiritual Seeker, PEO Member, Style Fan, Prince Fan, ☀️💛.

That’s 15, and I’m sure I could come up with more. At first, I thought, wow, this explains why I feel overwhelmed at times. But then, I reconsidered. Perhaps having many identities is a good thing. Perhaps the more identities we have, the more we have to fall back on if we lose one. If I lost my job, then I can fall back on my identity as mother and wife and writer. Making the list pointed out some gaps where I’ve neglected identities I used to value: Yoga enthusiast, runner, book lover. I want to bring those back into my life this year. It’s important to look at your identities and ensure that you’re attending to all of them over time — maybe not all in a day, but using myself as an example, if being a mother and writer and wife is taking up all my time, I need to make a conscious effort to spend time and effort on other areas. So for example, I need to make sure to attend monthly PEO meetings, call my brother, and participate on my favorite style website, YouLookFab.com.

When Alex Hahn and I wrote The Rise of Prince, it opened up a world that I never knew existed: A community of Prince-loving souls. As my interest in Prince grew along with my research and writing, the question was clear. Would I join in with the community, or would I stay on the periphery? Would I keep my interest in Prince as a small part of my life?

As an author, I could justify staying on the periphery and keeping an outsider’s point of view. But the joy of a shared interest was beginning to lure me in. Until 2016, I knew I liked Prince, but it had been years since I’d invested time or energy into my interest. When he died, I unearthed my CD collection and was shocked at how many Prince CDs I had collected over the years, including all through the 1990s and into the mid 2000s. But it had been a long time since I’d gone to a concert or bought a book or album.

This time, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake: I decided to fully embrace my ongoing interest in Prince, even after the book was published. I leaned in and made the Prince community a big part of my life. I started putting commitments on my calendar. I attended Celebration 2018, a three-day “Prince conference” hosted annually by Paisley Park. I went to live shows by bands and artists associated with Prince, even if I had to go by myself. There, I struck up conversations with fellow fans who have since become dear friends. I joined Facebook groups and instead of lurking in the background, I jumped in and added to the conversation. I listened to podcasts, notably Michael Dean’s Prince Podcast. I cleared off a bookshelf in the family room and started filling it with Prince-related books. My interest in Prince was filling my calendar and my shelves. It was influencing how I was spending money and how I was spending my time. I invested a lot in my Prince interest, and I began to reap the benefits as friendships grew and deepened. As I built my identity as a Prince fan, I gained many new friendships with people I would never have met otherwise. This shared identity as Prince fans gave us all a reason to hang out. It led to deepening relationships with people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise, but with whom I shared an instant bond over our shared interest.

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