Identity Dolls

identity dolls

The first week of a new year. Taking some time out to enjoy the last remaining moments of my time off. Doing and making. Quiet. Inspired by Ann Rippin and her New Year dolls. Fabric, beads, string, paint, pencils, bits of old jewellery, peg dolls. Using this to reflect on the past tempestuous, conflicting, happy, and difficult year. Often torn in lots of different directions. Thinking about the year ahead.

‘…that evening, I revealed some of my own struggles and feelings of guilt as a working, travelling mother. My colleagues listened, and I sensed they began to empathize. Some told their own stories, revealing their own sense of inadequacy as they tried and failed to live up to their ideals of being active fathers and good providers. As the conversation deepened, we began to bridge some unexpected divides. That evening we all learned…

Is the portrait of the clever and in-control woman a constructive portrait? What would an alternative look like that more accurately portrayed her emotional experience of work-family? It might portray her simultaneous joy and anguish, her feelings of being out of control, torn in too many directions. Might this not be a more humane and full portrait?’ (Meyerson in Fineman, 2000: 167-175).

‘life as an academic involves a broad skill set and multiple nondelineated tasks…the impossibility of these expectations: Can you do all of these things in one professional label? We’re asked to teach students, engage with students, have assessment strategies, feedback strategies, supervise MScs, PhDs, mentor people, mentor other members of staff, research, write research bids, write research papers, present at conferences, publish in high quality journals, administration and all aspects of pastoral care. I mean it’s just never-ending but is it realistic?…’ (Knights and Clarke, 2014: 342).

‘identity is seen as multiple, and people tend to find themselves at the intersection of a number of different identity categories and cross-cutting identifications…Anzaldúa argues for a ‘new mestiza’ way of thinking, which allows for the conflicting, overlapping identities that people experience. This awareness can help to challenge previous ways of thing about identification.’ (Kenny et al, 2011: 62).

These quotes have helped me think and question: What can I do differently? How can I shift my unproductive thought patterns? What does 2018 hold? What do I want? What multiple identities do I experience and how do they all intersect? What makes some of these overlaps challenging? What opportunities do these overlaps provide?

A way to uncover my anxieties and limiting beliefs. Be honest. Forgive. Working out what really makes me happy. Hopes. Working out what’s missing. My values. A sense of purpose. Fulfilment. Fun.

My identity dolls represent:

How I feel about my academic writing – ‘I hate writing but love having written’ (thanks, Dorothy Parker, I feel the same way). That I am constrained and pressured by the academic world of writing for high ranking journals. It is prickly and slow. But I love the final product. The neat package of a lovely paper I can be proud of. This year I hope to untie a particularly prickly knot and finish the last paper from my thesis.

How I feel like a phony sometimes and suffer from imposter syndrome – am I all sparkle but a tiny brain? I can make things look good…but do they have enough substance? What does ‘enough’ mean anyway? This year is about seeking confidence. Saying out loud – actually, I can.

A past self – a travelling self that enjoyed a year away from material things, embraced the sand between her toes and gave little thought to what next…? What if…? But…? Looking back can be a good thing. Look at how simple life was but how good it felt.

An increasingly more ‘corporate’ self – with many hats. A new self that has achieved great things in the past year …but is this what I want? This conflicts with all the other selves. What do you do when you are good at something and achieve results, but you aren’t sure it’s really ‘you’? What is ‘really me’?

I am a wife and I am a mother and I am a daughter and I am a friend. Here there is safety. Here I am torn. ‘Simultaneous joy and anguish’. Here there is motherhood – I have been fundamentally changed by my daughter. I love motherhood more that I ever thought I would. Game changing. THIS is my perspective in amongst the chaos. So, why do these things so often come after work? A question of priorities.

Another self. In another world, in another time I would be/ could have been …an artist; a food critic; an ice-dancer; played the guitar; been a hairdresser; a jewellery designer; spoken French… this year I hope I can make space for some of these things. Some of these things are not ‘lost’ just because I am taking a different path now.

A future self. Ask myself the bigger questions and answer them – deep down, what do I really wish for?







2 thoughts on “Identity Dolls

  1. Wonderful work. So glad that you are my daughter. Sparkle ….yes,…..tiny brain…,…….how else would you be able to think about all that you think about. Making and designing stuff is intelligence made visible……solving stuff is creative application of brain power. Inventing thoughts about stuff is VERY clever indeed.

    Love frrom Mama

    Sent from Samsung tablet

  2. Harriet, I love this. Makes me wonder what mine would be like at the moment. I think mine would be in an oversized coat, hiding underneath, clutching some writing that I don’t yet feel brave enough to share.

    A lovely piece, thank you for sharing. Here’s to kicking imposters into the long grass in 2018!

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