Seeking our identity

Personal identity

Living to be

It's what we feel inside that defines us and gives us strength. We all have to search from within to better understand who we are and how we live. Life to many is a mystery and a precious gift that we unwrap every day. We don't always know the answers but we must have an inner desire and a determination to find them as we learn about life and about ourselves. We have to live with our self every day so we better get to like who we are and accept it so we can participate in and experience life the way we are supposed to. We certainly will find out that we are far from perfect and there is no one who can make such a claim of being perfect. What we must realize though is that we must feel comfortable and happy with our inner being and we must never feel like it is us against the world. We have to know that we have others to turn to and can seek help, advice and acceptance. As we embark on our life journey there will be so many different scenarios that will play out for us that eventually will define our life and we will find we have many roads to travel. The choices we will have to confront will be daunting and we will have to really challenge ourselves and hope we make the right choices.

In life we will feel the ups and the downs and will hopefully find we are experiencing the highs more so than the lows. It seems over the long haul, life simply has a way of balancing out both the highs and the lows because we certainly won't be happy all of the time and we won't always be crying either. If we can unlock the key to our soul and live our life to the fullest and be all that we can be we will find our own inner peace. We must also have a oneness with God and feel inspired. We should never feel all alone or that our lives are meaningless. We should also never feel guilty for who we are. We all have to come to terms with many things in our life and I believe the single most difficult thing to come to terms with aside maybe from realizing we eventually will die is finding out our inner self. Who we are will dictate how we live. If we are a shy person we will find that we will impose limits on our life and maybe not achieve all that we can. If we feel insecure we will never feel comfortable and will struggle with our confidence and this too will hold us back. If we struggle with a handicap or are labeled special needs we must not let this dictate who we are and how we will live. We must rise above it and prove to ourselves that we can do anything. If we can do that than we can prove it to the world also. I want my son to believe this in his heart, his mind and his soul. I want him to believe and to know that he can do anything and just because he is autistic does not mean he has to feel less of a person. He is special not because he is autistic but because he has God given abilities and he has to challenge himself to bring them out.

I have learned to be an understanding, compassionate and patient person in my life and I owe it to my parents who treated me with love and respect and made me always feel safe, protected and special. They accepted me for who I was and they never made judgements. I did feel shy and insecure in my life but I did not let it get so out of control that it affected me to where I could not function. I know of extremely shy people who could not go out into the world because they lived in fear each and every day. It was a prison of the mind and they could not escape it no matter how hard they tried or how medicated they became. I felt very sad that they could not realize their true potential or find their inner peace. I have met so many people from all walks of life and I accept each and every one of them. I do not judge because I am just like them and we all must realize that we all have to find our peace through some internal struggles. I see it with my son and I don't always know how to advise him but I do know that I will try my best to help and support him and be there to encourage and guide him the best way I can. If I read 1,000 books about autism I still would not have all the answers but I would be wiser and hopefully more equipped to help my son and those who struggle with it. I certainly can write about it because I am deeply affected by it.

Facing our fears are sometimes very difficult but it is the only way we can help turn things around and make our lives more enjoyable. I know the pain of extreme shyness and the fears that we struggle with. Just in carrying on simple conversations with people can be overwhelming. I had times where I was afraid to engage in small talk with someone for fear of what to say and how they would react. I would just avoid those contacts when I was younger. I perceived things in my mind before I had a chance to let it happen naturally and once I thought about it I destroyed the moment from ever happening. I crippled my self from this kind of thinking and it was getting to a point in my young adulthood that I had to seek someone to help me get past it. I also had been struggling with depression having seen both my parents facing struggles in their life and not knowing how to help them. It was sad to see my mom in and out of hospitals and not seeming to get the proper care she needed. She had many years of fighting depression and eventually she lost her fight with it. This really hurt when we lost her and I knew for my dad's sake I had to be strong and be there for him. We will never really understand why our loved ones have to face these kinds of struggles but we must learn to come to terms with it and try to gain strength and insight from it so we can go on in our life.

The lessons we learn are based on our experiences and the passage of time. If we were to sit and talk with an elderly person we would learn a lot about life, making decisions, having dreams and understanding pain. I remember feeling inspired after talking with my great grandmother about life and what it was like for her and I can still envision doing a homework assignment which required that I interview her about emigrating here from a foreign country. My great grandmother was very gracious and she revealed a story about coming to this country from Italy when she was 17 years old and how she found work as a seamstress and she remembered fondly walking over the Brooklyn bridge with a box carrying her wedding dress. She was only here in this country for less than a year and she was already working and planning to be married. She showed me photographs of herself as a young woman and she was so beautiful. It seems she still had that spark in her eyes as she revealed that part of her life with a beautiful smile. It really touched me and made me appreciate the elderly for they all have a priceless story to tell and are very willing to share it.

A parent's biggest responsibility in life is to provide for their children and raise them to believe in themselves and to never give up. We have to inspire our children and teach them about life and share our experiences and provide them with the knowledge and the guidance they need so they too can go out into the world and make a life for themselves and be that special person that they are meant to be. They need to make connections and to find a career that will help make them feel fulfilled and also contribute to their personal identity as they start in the work force.

Our own personal identity is also tied into the type of work we do and it seems more and more older people are working longer maybe due to necessity and also because they would feel lost if they no longer worked. We seem to thrive in our jobs and if we no longer have that we will feel a loss of who we are.

I often wondered why some people have lived long lives and others have died so young. It seems so sad to have to experience losing someone so young. We sometimes don't understand why it has to be this way and I often question why but feel they were called to God and they were very special. I have lost young friends in my life and it is very painful and makes us all realize that life is very unpredictable. I will never truly understand why some people feel their lives are hopeless and without meaning and what draws them to make decisions that not only hurt them but hurt all those around them. I had a college friend who struggled with personal issues in his life and he had such inner pain that made him feel lost and all alone. He confided in me something he could not tell even his family but felt safe telling me. I respected my friend very much and felt that I could not help him but I tried to encourage him to seek help and to find a support group. I even tried to support him as best I could by being there to listen. I went to school with him and we got along well but he suffered from this depression that never seemed to go away. In his suicide note he reflected on his family and his friends and wondered why he was different. I cried because he was my good friend and I really could not help him. The saddest part of this story was that he could only reveal this struggle he had in a suicide note after he was found dead in his room by hanging himself. I wondered why he could not tell his family and choose to live his life and find the acceptance he so wanted and desired. It seemed he was ashamed and could not accept it himself. This experience really made me grow up and realize the harsh realities of life and I will never forget my friend and only hope he has found his peace. You see my friend struggled with his identity. He felt he was a girl and wanted to live out his life that way but he could not find the help he needed and he was not able to come to terms with it.

I also lost a cousin to suicide because he also struggled with getting his life together and I knew he was going through a difficult time after his divorce. He was not prepared for this emotionally and when he lost contact with his children that was the end for him. He must have felt all alone and his self esteem was done in by this hopeless situation. I remember visiting him and his family with my dad only a year earlier at Christmastime when all seemed perfect. We just could not find the words to express the pain and sadness we felt when we found out about his untimely death. It seems we never are truly prepared for news like this.

The hardest loss for me was the loss of my parents. My mother to depression and my father through depression and suicide. I wished I could have known my dad was in such pain. Could I have made things better for him? I doubt it but if I knew he was in trouble I certainly would have been by his side to try and help him get past it. Life can often be beautiful and joyous but when we encounter tragedies it is very hard to face the truth and understand. We must try to take this difficult and painful reality and put it in its proper place. We do not want to repress it or deny it ever happened. What good would that do? We have to go through all the stages of grief in these situations and then we have to confront the pain and sorrow and the reality of the situation and deal with it as best we can so we can move on and live our lives. We are not being selfish for we have to pick up the pieces, try to mend and heal as we hold on to the loving memories of our loved one.

So knowing who we are as a person will make us stronger and help us get through the most difficult times in our life. My biggest joy in life is having a wife I love and care for very much and a son who makes me realize what is most important in life. He gives me strength, confidence, hope and a desire to live my life and do my very best for him. He is my pride and joy and makes me realize that our children provide us with the most important role in our life, being a loving and caring parent. They help shape our identity too!

Edward D. Iannielli III

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Identity

Early childhood development and adversity

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