I work part-time in the family motel. What I find interesting is that many of our latino customers will ask me where I am from. At first, I thought it was just something common to the culture, to ask where you were born–as a conversation starter. I would answer honestly–I would tell them that I was “from here.” Often, they would look confused. Judging from their facial expressions, it always seemed like I responded incorrectly to them, even though I was honest and accurate. From there, they would often “clarify” by asking where I was born–in case I misinterpreted their question to mean, where did I live? I answered that I was technically born a couple of towns away, in Fresno. Since this was apparently not the answer they were looking for, the latino motel guest would then ask me where my parents were born. Again, I answered honestly. My Mother was born in Mendota; my Father in Firebaugh. (California.) At this point, most people are confused or surprised–insinuating that I am still not answering the “real” question.
The next question always became the one about where my grandparents are from. Once I eventually realized what was going on in this game, I began to answer the question by letting them know where my GRANDMOTHERS are from–one from Hanford, California and the other from Chicago, Illinois. Once I name where my Grandfathers are from or where my Grandmothers’ families are originally from, then the person asking me is finally satisfied. They know WHAT I am.
Today, whenever anyone asks me where I was born or where I am from, I answer honestly. However, many of the locals (who are predominantly Latin American immigrants) are not satisfied with my response. I’ve noticed especially that immigrants from Mexico (which is where my family lines come from) narrow that down to the state that a Mexican comes from. As someone from the USA, that is much more used to our variation of pop culture, I am much more interested in someone’s Sun sign than someone’s birthstate. I was often blown away that not only did many local latinos not know their Sun sign, but that quite a few weren’t even sure about their exact birthdates. It is just not that important to this particular socio-economic group that comes to our area to work.
Contrary to what is normal for me, I’ve listened to Mexicans use state of origin in the same way that some of us use Sun signs. People from Jalisco are generally thought to be sweet and friendly, while people from Sinaloa might be louder and a little more colorful with their language. When my motel customers were asking for my state of origin, they wanted to identify me the same way that people shorthand other’s personalities as Leos, Scorpios or Capricorns.
Why this doesn’t work when they try to pinpoint my personality through my family’s state of origin is that I am second- and third-generation Chicano. Although we share our national origin with Mexicans–being in a different area, we can have a whole different sub-/culture at times. Chicano culture can be a more amorphous creature, and a hybrid of Mexican and other American traditions. I have many different cultural references and tastes that vary and stray wildly from the bloodlines of my family tree.
I might identify with very little that a traditional Mexican would, even if we can trace our lines back to the same families and states. I’ll respond that I am Mexican-American, Chicano or “Pocho” depending on context….but as a human, my nationality or heritage isn’t something that I identify with on a deep personality level. I’ll categorize myself according to audience, relevant conversation and communication; but it isn’t something that I internalize and tell myself that this is what “I am” on a soul-level.
I started exploring spirituality as a teenager. Haphazardly, clumsily, but I started to explore concepts and practices while I was in my teens. Part of my incentive was that I thought I could find some kind of healing, some kind of peace from the constant anxiety and panic disorders I suffered from. Because of the anxiety, I never really fell in love with too many things in the world. I couldn’t envision any sort of clear fantasy that I wanted to fulfill when I was “old enough.” Constantly in a state of panic or anxiety, I was exhausted from the moment that I awoke to the moment that I finally fell asleep. My main escape was reading. I could temporarily find peace in other people’s stories, but the panic was a constant for MY LIFE.
Since I couldn’t fall in love with any imaginary future life for myself and I certainly couldn’t fall in love with anything of my past or present, I couldn’t ever identify with seeing myself as any particular thing. My panic was all that I felt as I tried to get through each day.
I had a rich fantasy life, though. There were things that I WISH I were. However, I couldn’t ever feel settled in any daydream or wish. Nothing ever felt right. I was intuitive in other areas. I was logical and analytical in others. But because of my self-esteem issues, any information which dealt with self-perception was naturally skewed. My earliest attempts in self-contemplation and self-exploration were already heavily colored with a sense of self-loathing.
Instinctively, I began to explore concepts in spirituality for my emotional self-healing. And because I went from being unable to use my intuition to explore concepts that might ring true for me, I completely missed out on any notable progress in self-inquiry in this area. When I first explored spirituality, I became introduced to the concepts of reincarnation and the journey of the soul through our human incarnations. From early on, I was becoming versed in differentiating between the nature of the eternal soul and the illusion of the human personality. It was early on that I learned that the latter is very much tied into whatever was its current physical incarnation.
In the beginning stages of healing my emotional body, it was partially from contemplating the concept that “what I was” was actually the Soul, not my human personality. Thoughts come and go in our psyches, our minds change out thoughts and ideas. But, that still center, that place beyond thoughts is what we can consider The Self.
Everything that is based on thoughts, perception, analysis can possibly change throughout our lifetimes. They are mutable. As we pass between incarnations, in and out of physical existence–what is dependent on thought (the mental) can be dropped or picked up in exchange for another.
So, in my process, I went from being unable to intuitively identify as anything to the idea that what “I am” can only be unchangeable to the Soul, therefore it can only be the Soul. Therefore, “I am” the Soul.
….but after all of this contemplation, I had to come back to Earth.
For better or worse, I have to come out of meditation. My stomach growls. I have to pee. My back hurts or something eventually falls asleep from staying in one position too long. So, while I return, remember and relate to spiritual awareness….I am very aware that my physical body, family, and all my more human needs call me back down to material reality.
So, as part of my spiritual nourishment, I eventually became part of groups–online and in-person. At this point, earthly-identification (“I’m an ice cream lover. I’m a Scorpio. I’m a vegetarian.”) are useful for quick communication of likes and dislikes, and occasionally for necessary physical needs. However, by the time that I became part of online metaphysical groups…I’ve had quite a bit of shapeshifting and glamouring under my belt.
As a magician who works with energy on the etheric level, astral worlds and dream worlds–I’m very aware of the value of taking on different forms and essences. This includes those archetypes and beings that I wouldn’t necessarily think of as “me”. I’ve shifted into or taken on Hermes, werewolves, serpents, bears and an assortment of figures and creatures. I’ve “been” or projected these energies and images temporarily, and temporarily identified as “being them”–but not felt that it was any sort of long-term, deep-soul, permanent identification.
Because of my extensive experience with temporary identification with concepts for purely functional (psychological or magickal) purposes, it makes me a little more aware that there are many secondary reasons for self-identification. It is so easy to tell ourselves narratives which actually disguise other mental and emotional concepts.
Before (during) the self-inquiry about one’s true nature, one might find value in being open to eliminate other possible (secondary) reasons for identifying with one concept or another. In quiet contemplation, take your time meditating on questions such as these–Do I have an ulterior motive for wanting to identify as such-and-such a being? Would I still identify as such a creature, even if I never shared this information with any other person in conversation? Do I want to identify as such, because I want to be part of a community? Would I be okay if it turned out that I was “just human”–could that be enough for me? Am I really such-and-such a creature or do I just want people to think that I’m special? Am I really such-and-such a creature or do I need to feel that I’m special because of being unusual? Does knowing that I’m this kind of creature/being fill holes in my understanding of my past experience? What does deep identification with this information bring me?
[All images found using Google Image search.]