Laying An Identity to Rest.
People die, of course, but so do other things. Ideals. Relationships. Jobs. Life phases. Pieces of who we once were. A death isn’t always inherently sad, either; sometimes, it’s a positive step, freeing us from what was weighing us down or allowing us to move forward. Illusions can die. Grudges. Bad habits. Tell us about a death you’ve experienced, for better or worse, and how you marked the loss — whether it was with mourning or celebration.
When I was offered my new job, one of the first emails I sent was to let my alumni committee know I wouldn’t be returning. A new job would bring me to a new city, and with that a whole new life and schedule. Sitting on a committee would be too much to handle, and I needed the extra time. It was a bittersweet email: I enjoyed my time serving on this committee (it oversaw programming and events for alumni engagement at my University), but during the end of my time I had a nagging feeling I was overstaying my welcome. Now this isn’t to say the committee didn’t want me around, just that I felt I wasn’t supposed to be there.
A few days after I submitted my resignation, a thought occurred: that was the last official tie I had to my University. During my my undergrad, I was involved in EVERYTHING. Student clubs? Signed up. Touring visitors? Every week (and then some). Serving on student committees? Yup. Hell, I even helped run our recruitment offices social media at one point (and was aptly named “The Snapchat Guy” for many years after). I bled our campus colours. I was always referred to as “the University of Guelph in person”. Like a representative, or a mascot (I actually wore the mascot costume at one point too). I even worked at the University full time after graduation, running our recruitment offices entire social media operations. And For 2 years, I served on that alumni committee. I joined because I loved being involved, and wanted to continue doing it. But over the course of the pandemic, I realized that I was more nervous to let go. It would mean that this identity, as the “University of Guelph Guy” would be coming to an end. In a way, he would be dead. And I couldn’t process that. Who am I, if I don’t have this aspect of my identity?
The resignation went from a slightly sad goodbye to a torturous sting that lasted for a few weeks. I was now in limbo. I didn’t have my roles on campus to define me anymore.
(You can tell at this time I was realizing how bad it was to define myself purely as the Guelph Guy)
I valued my involvement on campus, because each role I joined reinforced my position as an integral figure of sorts. One that helped others navigate the complexities of university and have better experiences. It allowed me to express a part of myself I didn’t know needed expressing.
But now those roles were gone. And that Andrew, was, in a way, dead. So who am I now?
The next few weeks went by slowly, as I struggled with this personal crisis of mine. What factors would define me now? My work? My hobbies? My past?
And then, on a whim, I filtered through some of my old books, and found Victor Frankl’s Mans Search for Meaning. His story of his time in the concentration camps of World War 2 had resonated with me years ago, and I tore through the book before letting it collect dust. But now, the book stuck out like a sore thumb in the stack. Like it wanted me to read it.
I flipped through the pages, and found a note I had written to myself years prior:
We define ourselves by the decisions we make. Daily conduct. Daily action.
I didn’t remember writing that note. I still don’t. But it made sense now. It was a heavily philosophical observation, yes, but it was relevant to the scenario at hand. My old me was gone. Buried in the past. But this new me? It could be defined differently. Through what I did, not what my titles were. Not a Tour Guide, but a helper. Not a club member, but an involved individual. Not a committee member, but a public servant.
So, I buried my past. I mourned the old me: he was exciting, full of life, and a lot of fun. But a new chapter called for a new Andrew. And I was determined to be the best one I could be.
Let’s see who I become.