Identity, Creation, and Direction

Micha’el Leventhal said, “The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.”

I am the creator of my own world. This means that the choices I make every single day of my life affect the outcome of my entire future. This means the choices I make can affect other people’s lives. This means that as an individual, I have way more control over my own life, and others’ lives too, than what I may perceive myself as having.

The term create, according to Lexico, means to “bring (something) into existence … Cause (something) to happen as a result of one’s own actions.” This term seems quite fitting for myself since the choices I make day-to-day can cause other things to occur.

If one, for example, I walk up the hill by Lauderdale Health Services in order to go to the library, I will likely end up eating at least two of my meals at Books n Bytes since it is the most convenient location for me to eat at. I chose to walk up the hill to ensure that I have a productive day at the library. With this decision, my course load work can be accomplished even more efficiently as I surround myself with students who are also striving to complete their work. With this decision, I am portraying myself to others as a student who cares about her future and wants to excel in her studies.

As a creator, this means that somehow, in some ways, the choices I make every day provide me with a direction. This direction can also be as simple as where I will choose to eat, which depends on where I feel like walking. This direction can be as complex as, what will I major in? That can affect my life’s career. Should I choose to do psychology so that I can become a therapist? This means I have to take such and such psychology courses. This means that if I choose to pursue psychology that I need to maintain such GPA and attend such and such years of graduate school. This means that I can make X amount of money when I am older. Each of my individual actions affects both the world I currently live in as well as my future world.  But what if I am unsure of my direction or if I quite simply had no direction?

When I ponder the question of not having a direction, I automatically think about my identity. In some ways, my identity is what gives me a direction. This direction can be as simple as where my name is in alphabetical order compared to my peers in a classroom. In Professor McCoy’s class once, our class discussed the idea of alphabetical order and what this specific order signifies. Our class first had to alphabetize ourselves by our last names, and then after, by our first names. We discussed the idea behind this organization and whether or not being alphabetized means anything, I said aloud that my last name is both a sign of my culture and my family’s heritage, as well as indicative of where my position is in an organized fashion compared to my peers’ last names.

An identity, according to Lexico, is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” This means that as an individual, I can define myself by my name and say my state of being is Leila and my last name Sassouni is what provides me with the direction or life path that I will follow.

In some ways, however, if I did not have a name, then I would be lost in the world. If I do not know my own name, then how can I expect to be able to further identify with myself as a human being? If I do not know my own name, how can I expect to follow some kind of direction if my name cannot even provide one for me? I would be lost without my identity.

This intervention between identity and direction leads me to speak about my own uncertainty. I will introduce my own uncertainty of direction, and its specific association to English courses. I am a current psychology major with a minor in English. I enjoy speaking to people about personal issues and can envision myself as a therapist one day working with adolescents. I also enjoy writing and editing and would like to write for a newspaper in the future. While I may seem to have an idea of my life’s direction, I did not used to. In the beginning of this semester, I encountered a struggle. My struggle was regarding whether or not I wanted to stay an English minor or if I should instead declare a communication minor. I internally lost my sense of identity, as I previously considered writing one of my biggest passions. I questioned if the Leila from freshman year of college was the same Leila in sophomore year. I questioned if the Leila who loved writing for the newspaper actually wanted to pursue some kind of journalistic field when she was older. I questioned, who is Leila without writing? The overall answer is that I was completely unsure of my path and felt as if I had no direction. I had no guidance. I found challenge in connecting to myself through writing as I had once been able to.

To overcome this uncertainty and further reconnect with my identity and myself as a creator of my own direction, I pursued English. I enrolled in my first English minor class ENGL 203. I chose to do this because I needed to test the waters for myself, and to further identify whether or not I, Leila Sassouni, was meant to pursue English and get a degree in the field. Taking this class was one step that would either help me create a stronger foundation for my future world or would make me change my future path if I chose instead to declare communication as a minor. I chose to stay in the field, as I allowed myself to get passionately lost in the writing I produced in my blog posts. I wrote write about discussions I had in class with peers when reading different texts. I blogged about my thoughts of literary works and I would somehow form a strong connection with other disciplines; I finally felt reconnected with my identity, which gave me a direction.

This leads me to Percival Everett’s novel I am Not Sidney Poitier. As evidently noticed through the novel’s title as well as through the course of Not Sidney Poitier’s experience as an adolescent to his later adult life, his actual name starts with the word “Not”.

As defined by Lexico, a definition for the term “not” is “exclude[s] a person or part of a group.”

Not Sidney, which is just his first name, essentially has no identity. He is known as “Not” being someone. This lack of identity plays into his life’s journey as his life becomes an adventure since he is given no specific direction to follow. In other words, his name reflects his path: there is none. While his upbringing includes him being raised by his mother for a short time, and then being raised in Ted Turner’s house, his entire journey takes a spin as he suddenly becomes arrested, he becomes a prisoner, and then he helps random nuns who he encounters while driving on a road. He had absolutely no direction; therefore, he was not even the creator of his own world.

This links similarly to a previous blog post I wrote where I demonstrated that throughout his life, Not Sidney did not make choices for himself. He was arrested because of his skin color; he became a prisoner because of the fact that he was arrested. Neither of these were his decisions nor were they in his control; they were decisions made by a third party. This is similar because of the fact that his name means he is not part of a group, which means that he is an outlier. He is alone by himself, while all other people who have a name are part of an in group and can identify by their names. Since others have names that do not include the word “not”, they have a direction to follow because of the fact that they can identify with themselves. This is the opposite for Not Sidney since he cannot even identify with his own name. Therefore, this lack of a connection causes him to lose control over creating his own world.

Overall, both my experience in the English disciplinary field as well as my interaction with the text I am Not Sidney Poitier illustrate how crucial an identity is to set a concrete foundation and/or a direction in life. If Not Sidney had a name without the term “not”, he would have been better able to create his own world. Without my identity, I could not become a creator of my own world.

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