You Have To Work for Your Identity

James Walpole/ July 30, 2020

Lately I’ve been riding a horse roughly once every week or every two weeks. Does that make me a horseman?

I would say not. While I’d like to one day be known as a horseman, I realize that once every week or so won’t cut it.

Doing an activity is the only way to earn the right to identify with it. Only people who run can call themselves runners. Only people who box can call themselves boxers. And since we desperately want to earn cool labels like this (I’ll admit I do), we may “dip into” activities in order to earn their identities like merit badges.

But I’m learning that it’s not enough to do a thing every once in a while. Dalliance and dilettantism is easy and common now. Even if I try to call myself a horseman, or a hunter, or a writer, I realize that there are guys and girls also riding, hunting, and writing far more often, far more intensely, and for far longer. They make me ashamed to claim the title.

If I really want to be a horseman, or a hunter, or a writer, I have to *really* work for those things.

This raises interesting – the number of identities you can reasonably claim for yourself are limited. Your identity bingo card is constrained by time and other factors, but mostly time. You can’t go out and work all of the cool activities well enough to give yourself the cool identities. This forces a choice, and I (and every young person) will have to decide which labels we really care enough to work for.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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