Who Am I? Who Are You?

It was St. Davids Day on Thursday. He’s the patron saint of Wales so my two Welsh colleagues pulled out all the stops and laid on a Welsh breakfast for the entire office. We had Welsh cake, Welsh waffles, Welsh fruit cake and er…..German chocolate spread. They wore daffodils (their national flower) and brought a Welsh map into the office to educate us more about their country.

For example who knew that the population of Belfast was larger than the population of Cardiff? That there were more sheep than people in Wales? Or that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was in fact originally a Welsh man who got kidnapped by pirates and hauled back across the Irish Sea? This was all the more remarkable given we had spent most of the week mercilessly mocking them about Ireland having beaten Wales the Saturday before in the Six Nations Rugby Championship.

I was very impressed by their patriotism and sense of national identity. They are proud to be Welsh and even taught me a few Welsh words. Lechyd Da (pronounced Yakky Da) which is a traditional Welsh greeting meaning ‘good health’. Apparently. It also saddened me slightly though. In Northern Ireland we can’t agree on anything when it comes to our national identity. Language, flags, anthems you name it our communities and politicians fall out over it. To the extent that our local legislation has collapsed and we are facing direct rule from London again. Which nobody really wants but seems inevitable at the moment.

I’m as bad as anyone. Ask me my nationality and it depends on what day of the week it is and how I’m feeling. At home I’m Northern Irish; I have a British passport but when I’m abroad and people ask me where I’m from I often say I’m Irish. Because everybody loves the Irish and I can’t be bothered explaining the whole ‘well actually I live in the United Kingdom but on the island of Ireland’ thing. And now that we (as in 51.9% of the British population) have voted to leave the European Union we face the prospect of a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Even though nobody wants that and 56% of Northern Irish people voted to remain.

That’s why I like rugby so much as a game. Religion or nationality don’t enter the equation. It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or Protestant. If you are good enough you are good enough. There is one national side containing the best players from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They have even created a unique rugby anthem, ‘Ireland’s Call’, which everyone can sing together before the start of the match. It is a unifying and emotional experience. It’s no wonder the team plays with such passion and is currently ranked 3rd in the world.

Fionnuala and I have experienced first hand the difficulties of living in a world where people judge you and attach labels based upon your background and upbringing. Labels conceal the real person struggling to be heard beneath. What’s the first thing you do when you buy a new pair of jeans or a sweater and bring them home to excitedly try them on? Why, you remove the labels of course. We don’t want our kids growing up in the same bigoted, jaundiced society that we did. We want them to live their lives free from prejudice and hatred. We want the best for them. And that means ripping off the labels.

I am me and I refuse to be labelled and stuck in a box. I want to cut loose from stereotypes and preconceptions. Writing is my key to unlocking the prison cell I have inhabited for most of life. A life sentence of conforming and adapting my personality in order to fit in with the values of others. I made myself permanently uncomfortable in order that others whose company I was in could feel temporarily comfortable. I was a cowardly chameleon, a miserable master of disguise. Blogging has removed my need for that. Hence the honesty of my writing. It is like breathing fresh air for the very first time after a lifetime in stifling captivity.

My hope for you today is that you are comfortable in your own skin. And if not, then why not, and what are you going to do about it? Strike out on a journey of a lifetime in order to find the real you. It will be a rocky and winding road for sure and you may stumble from time to time. But don’t despair and don’t give up. It is a journey of discovery which, in turn, will lead to recovery. Recovery from a past of false labels. Recovery of your true identity. Finding the person that stares at you every morning, trapped behind a mirror of lies. Breaking through and finding the real you.

So……who are you?

45 thoughts on “Who Am I? Who Are You?

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  1. Brilliant piece. I got my tickets for the Ireland games in the next Rugby World Cup during the week. Really looking forward to it now. I must learn the words to Ireland’s Call. It came out after I left.

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  2. Currently, I’m someone exceptionally inspired. Thank you for this, you always motivate your readers. I was postponing studying for an upcoming test because of a thought spiral but I read this and I finally got off of my couch. Thank you, it sounds like a small thing, but thank you for bringing about change. 🙂

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  3. Most of my adult life has been you either like me for who I am or move along. I don’t have the time or energy to be who people think I should be. I must be doing something right because most people seem to hang around. Be true to yourself.

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  4. This is so good. I was a chameleon, too, until I couldn’t do it anymore. Being all things to all people made me lose myself. And I was exhausted! I’m still learning to show my true colors. This blog helps!

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  5. I too have always wanted to belong and fit in, but never did. I tried to be like the rest of them, but I felt like a fraud. And then I hated them for their ease, but I hated myself more. I rebelled, again. I fought it all, but I still didn’t find my place. I’m 48 years old and at last now that I am happily married, I feel comfortable. Comfortable that I am me. I’m not like everyone else, but that’s ok. It’s been so hard but at least I can now just be me. I loved your post, it really made me think and wonder. Thank you for your honesty.

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  6. A so-needed post. I went to see The Black Panther in the theater, a rarity for me to go to the movies. What I loved about this movie as a black woman was the absence of stereotypes. I saw black women as warriors and scientists. I lived through the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, with its promise of better days and less racism. I am so disheartened today to see us going backwards as a nation, and stereotypes abound. I taught my students, all races of them, to just be you. Don’t expend so much extra energy trying to disprove stereotypes. It’s the other guy’s problem, and you cannot change people’s perceptions. You can only live your truth. So, thanks for a wonderful post. Just think of how many wonderful relationships have been lost because people could not get past the stereotypes to rally get to know someone.

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  7. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be German. they must really love to always be confronted with something that doesn’t have anything to do with them. If I were German I’d even hide it. 🙊
    I think that no possible label does do me justice. Nor anyone else.
    Just stopping by to say hello after a few weeks of silence. Hope you are doing fine.

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  8. A sceptical, pessimistic Scot(tish nationalist) – who is a Christian – with (thanks to my paternal grandparents) some English blood in me, and if you go far enough back some Irish, too. Slàinte Mhath! 😀

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  9. That is certainly an interesting post. Go Wales!! I am a grand total of 1/4 Irish. When I was a child I was so proud of the fact that my grandma’s family had originally come from Ireland. My friends and I went to great lengths to describe what nationalities and what percentages we were. Even as an adult, I can see that such and such characteristic came from the Irish side and this other thing seems more Scottish, etc. Maybe that began to direct my interests towards international things. I think that God has many wonderful qualities and since we are made in His image, it’s no wonder that there is no limit to the qualities found in His children all around the earth. For example, I would say that the South Americans show a very different side of Him from the Asians, and yet, they are all beautiful.

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  10. I have been actually doing research on my family tree (who am I). I have been able to trace back several lines back to 1300’s or later. What is funny, growing up I was always told my father’s mother was Irish. And my father’s father was German. The German side talked about the “drinking Irish.” (Funny like the Germans don’t like their beer). Turns out the “Irish” branch is actually English. But I still get to claim some Irish as my mother’s family almost all trace back to Ireland or Scotland. I am a redhead and I always loved thinking there was some Irish in me – glad to know there is although it’s not from the line I expected.

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  11. I am a mom who believes in Jesus Christ. I am a mom who often feels like I’m failing at it. I am a mom who loves to write and take photos. I carry many labels depending on who you ask. But I really just want to be me.

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  12. It’s funny living in the United States even though all the people I grew up with including myself would consider ourselves to be Americans (nevermind all the other South American and North American countries lol) we would also discuss at great length the different countries our families had come from. I’m 50% Irish my Mom’s entire family is from there and then my other half is a grand mix of French-Canadian, English, and German. My Step-Dad’s family is Italian and my cousins are Korean. It means very little here but I’m also 1/32 Native American of the Crow and Blackfoot tribes. For all that there is a lot of history of division in my family over those different backgrounds. Before my grandparents, on my Mom’s side, our family were very Catholic which doesn’t at all surprised when our ancient ancestors were ecclesiastics in Armaugh and even martyrs. On my Dad’s side, it’s more of a mystery because my great-great-grandma wouldn’t tell my grandpa who his Dad really was so our last name isn’t really ours (by blood anyway). So I guess I’m just an all-American mutt with a truer citizenship in Heaven thank you for the great reminder to be ourselves and enjoy each other’s differences rather than look down on them!

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          1. What incredible experiences you must have had living in so many of them. Arr they all very different? Or fairly similar? Also the irony of this though the last place was recorded of any note in Ireland was County Tyrone according to the research my Mom and Grandma have done 🙂

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  13. British, born in Greater Manchester, singe and 40! I always remember St David’s Day and ensure I have a bunch of Daffodils for the day, my grandparents got married on St David’s Day and I have many a fond memory of holidays in Wales. I like to write, it’s the only thing I often feel helps my mental health. I was brought up with the church, but once my mum died and I moved I stopped going and I do believe I miss that in my life… I also speak fluent Swedish self-taught from when I was 14! 😉

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  14. Great points! I come from the great state of Wyoming in the USA. People in Wyoming, including myself, take great pride in our state. We are the “Cowboy State”, and proud of it. But where it becomes hard is appreciating and acknowledging the culture that shaped me in so many ways, while also figuring out my individuality.

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  15. Half of the time, the world tells us who to be even when we are mere children, still awestruck at the wonders of the world. In a society like ours, we lose touch of that person we want to be in our little minds; even before we have a chance to. Thank you for this post. It takes me down hallways of memories, imploring me to dig and find that person I was before the world told me who to be.

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