Michelle Parry, age 22

Santa Fe, New Mexico

“My Identity is Mine”

One of the hardest problems is embracing your natural identity. Who I am is rooted the perception of myself, the people I befriend and how I exchange energy with others. My past, present and future also depicts my self-identity, but I’ve learned that I absorb my world daily, and each interaction, paid advertisement, and internal thought deciphers my decisions. I realized how much I was trying to fit in a mold when I was in high school. I was much more comfortable being a tomboy and creating art in a room of solitude, but I didn’t embrace that part of my identity. I felt pressure to straighten my hair, dress feminine and pursue a social life that actually overwhelmed me. I felt that it was the correct way to do things. These patterns followed me to college, and things became worse. I almost completely lost my identity. I couldn’t remember what I actually liked and who I wanted to be. It wasn’t until 2018 when I returned home for the holidays, that I reconnected with the person I always was; the person who was hiding within me. Throughout my life I was uncomfortable with how much I liked having a hard edge, and expressing myself in boyish manner. I felt like everyone valued me more when I showed my feminine side. I’ve realized that my masculinity is beautiful, and although I am slightly tomboy, I can still have a feminine energy. It was all in my head. I am no longer chasing a ‘proper’ identity. I know the right identity lives within myself, and it’s important for me to return to her each day. Without my resilience to go against the norm, intelligence to question my surroundings and unique perspective, I wouldn’t be able to call my personal identity a reflection of my truest self.