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February 9, 2009 / TildeWill

Self Identity and Self Worth

I thought for sure I had once written a post about how, on dating sites, people identify themselves by their profession. Now I can’t find that post. Anyway, the idea was that a person may say “I am a lawyer downtown.” as their opening line, but if you take away the profession of lawyer from the universe, there is hopefully still a full person left behind. Who is this person? Does he enjoy debate? Does he seek the truth? Does he feel wronged by society? To me, this person knows what he does, but he does not understand who he is. Therefore, he cannot understand why he chooses to do the things he does.

Today, if you ask me who I am it would be more correct for me to say, “I am William Leleand Read”, than it would for me to say anything else. I am a person who enjoys company at a meal, and seeks to learn new things, who strives for happiness in self and those around me… But I didn’t always answer this way.

From 2000 to maybe 2006 or 2007 I was a fencer (or a ref, or a coach, or a club owner, but it was fencing related). My identity and fencing were so intertwind that when things went poorly in fencing, everything went poorly. When something threatened my ability to fence, my own concept of self was a risk, or so it seemed. If someone did a poor job of running a tournament, they instantly found themselves on my shit list. If someone quit fencing, it was incredibly hard for me to keep up a friendship with him or her because I no longer had anything in common with that person, or so I felt. If some family event conflicted with fencing, I internally questioned how they could expect me to make such a choice.

Conversely, when things were up in fencing, things were way up in Will-land. If I ran a tournament that brought in hundreds of fencers or thousands of dollars in club funds, or even just got compliments form the participants, I’d be on top of the world. Nothing could harm me if the latest beginner class had a high turn out. I’m sure at those times, Will Read the fencer was a lot of fun to be around.

I don’t think I fully understood how much my identity and fencing were connected until I first withdrew from my fencing home and moved to Cincinnati. I made trips back to Lafayette to “check up on my clubs” almost every month. I felt lonely and out of place because the local club in Cinci didn’t recognize me for the fencer I thought myself to be. Ultimately I moved back to Lafayette to fence full time, and it was then that I knew what I was without needing to change.

I wonder now if I could go back through my blog entires and see myself taking the steps to separate my identity from fencing. Somewhere along the lines I remember making a list of things I had been wanting to do ever since I got out of college. Things like “learn to dance” and “take a glass class” were on the list and when I asked myself why I hadn’t done them, the answer always came back to one thing: fencing. I was at that point a fencer who wanted to be a William Leland Read.

In June of 2008, I left fencing. I don’t know if I will ever be able to safely maintain an independent identiy and still hold a foil. That day may come eventually, but that day is not today. I write this because I worry about some of my fencers who appear to be heading down my path, a path I no doubt led them to. My hope is not that they quit fencing, but that they recognize where they are, and can use the advanced notice to strike a healthy balance in their own life that I could not.

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