Kaleidoscope 9/40: ... The hotness from my 2009 RSS feed

Kaleidoscope 9/40: ... The hotness from my 2009 RSS feed
Impressionist painting meets kaleidoscope... DALL-E

I still remember the day — back in 2009! — when Paul Graham posted his essay "Keep Your Identity Small."

If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.

The essay ricocheted through my RSS feed — everyone that I knew had an opinion about it. That essay is the reason that I am registered as an independent voter and make sure I have heterodox opinions.

But for me, Paul's essay brushes over the most important aspect of why I aim to keep identity small — it is usually much, much harder to change your identity than it is to change your mind.

Where is my identity not serving me?


Today's story is a beautiful one of transformation. Of a rare person who changed their identity, in a big way, publicly and privately.

My dear friend Alex was one of the most vocal child free people I knew in real life. She knew, deep in her bones, that she would never be — did not want to be — a mother. And she told people just that.

To be clear, while I do not have children, I am not 'child free' – it's not part of my identity. Alex was child free.

But life changes. Alex endured a tragic breakup, made a huge move from Portland to a tropical paradise and, in time, found a new home, a new love and new beginnings.

Her family moved to be close to her and she began witnessed her parents creep towards old age. She really started to feel the circle of life.

All of this stirred something in her.

Unlike most of us, Alex was able to see that her old identity was no match for the current version of herself. She began thinking about what it might be like.

She bravely started talking to friends and loved ones — ones she had told for years that she would never become a mother — that, maybe, just maybe she would?

And she did — Alex welcomed a brand new family member this spring!

Alex committed what is often considered a cardinal sin — she flip flopped. But this is an easy case to see that it is not a sin at all.

It's beautiful to evolve, to change your mind as you get new information and to be open to new ideas or different ways of doing things.

But it is also hard.

And it becomes exponentially harder when the way you define yourself — your identity — is wrapped up in believing something to be true.

This is true not just of obvious things like religion and politics, but of the way you define yourself — I'm a pushover / workaholic / procrastinator — whatever self-identifiers we have carved out.

Identities are powerful. Maybe its time to loosen our grip a little.

Until tomorrow,
Rebecca