Whether we want to admit it, a lot of our identity to the outside world is tied to our interests. The things that we read, talk about, take part in, etc. are often the things that define who we are to the world around us. We become known for certain things: the friend who’s into fitness, the friend who’s into food, the friend who’s into tech, the friend who’s into reading…
So what happens when your interests change, and in a way, your identity changes with them?
For a lot of my life, I was the political friend. That was my thing. I loved it so much that I majored in International Relations and Economics in undergrad. I was the friend obsessed with domestic politics, foreign affairs and economics. That was the majority of the content I consumed and people knew that if they read or heard something in any of those domains, I would’ve been up to date and would have had some sort of opinion on it.
But something’s changed. A few weeks ago, when the Iran-Trump drama was blowing up, I had multiple friends reach out to me asking what I thought. Or I had people send me articles they thought I might like. And it was strange, but I realized I really hadn’t thought much of it at all and it was really eye-opening.
Somewhere over the last year or two, my interests shifted. Or rather, the interests into which I poured my energy into shifted. I stopped reading as much about domestic politics as I used to. Foreign affairs just didn’t have the same spark and excitement around it. I started to view economics through a social lens instead of a political lens. A new internal reality was forming - the old parts of me were cracking and new passions were springing up in those crevices.
Maybe it’s because this company takes up the majority of my mindshare, and I love the questions that we’re asking every day. So my interests have naturally shifted to align with what I do for work and what I find intellectually stimulating (branding, social anthropology, meaning and resonance in the workplace, etc.) I feel more like myself than ever before, but in other ways, the temporary loss of that old identity is rattling.
I’m currently in transition and mourning that version of myself who loved political science, statecraft and nation building. I know she’s not gone forever, but right now, she feels particularly distant and it challenges my identity and my understanding of self. What happens when the things that once defined me and sparked my creativity can’t fill those desires anymore? How does that change how I relate to the world? How does it change how I present myself and how others understand me?
Do you have a thing that you’re known for? A subject that you know better than anyone else or a topic that you totally nerd out on and everybody knows it? Or have you seen the thing you’re known for radically shift and did you notice a change in your identity?