A huge part of my job at work is outreach, and lately we have been doing some of this at events - inviting groups that we haven't previously partnered with to our events, going to theirs, etc. It sounds simple but it seems to be making a big impact.
We went to an event this morning and had an entire table to fill, and I invited all sorts of people. One of them is a therapist at a local hospital system who also has a private practice. She and I have more in common, I learn, as I get to know her better, than I'd think at first glance - among other things, identity issues.
The breakfast was a fundraiser/get-together for a culturally-specific health care center. My colleague, who is African American but was adopted by white parents, then married a man from Ghana.
She e-mailed me afterward the event today and said, "I know some of those people, but they never invite me to anything like this. I felt like I was out of place, like I didn't belong, like somehow I was a fake."
I told her she fit in perfectly and that I was proud to know her - this is a woman who has conquered all kinds of obstacles, personally and professionally, to devote her career to helping other people. We ended up having a very interesting e-mail conversation about identity.
My family, shall we say, is the product of people hopping the fence everywhere. We are derived from Apaches, Swiss Jews, Irish Protestants, German Lutherans, and the like. (What do they all have in common? Just about all of us are nuts...but that's another story.) We have one side that swears up and down that they're 100% WASP, when in fact I have looked at the family tree going back to about the year 1500 and that is blatantly untrue; we have another side that's as admittedly mixed as the day is long.
Who am I and where do I fit in? I have Native American genes but people mistake me for being white - but I'm not white enough for some relatives who don't like to talk about those lines. I have enough Jewish roots to disturb the WASP relatives, but I'm not Jewish enough for some of the more religious people I know.
I've thought about this for years tried to be more this and more that. But at some point I finally arrived at the conclusion that I'm just me. I have my own ideas about faith, roots, and family. It's all significant in its own way. I have come to the realization that blood is not thicker than water, and that Mr. RK, my close friends and stepbrother are more family than some of the people I allegedly share DNA with. (My dad thinks I have more DNA in common with a banana than one side of the family anyhow.)
In sum, a friend asked a few months back, "Well, how do you identify?"
And I replied, "I'm just me."
PS Just so you don't think I've gone all batshit serious on you, I've included a couple of lolcats - and this gem.