When we think of our identity, it likely brings up very personal, specific feelings. Identity is a word we use to define the core of who we are, the values we espouse, and the traits we wish to embody. Our identity is unique to each of us. But give the concept more thought, and we begin to realize outside influences also form that identity: our faith, decisions we make throughout our lives concerning others, circumstances we find ourselves in, often not by choice, and reactions to significant changes in our world.
What could be a scary thought, that our wishes do not wholly form our identity, can become less so when we realize the possibilities for change this grants us. Our identity is never written in stone; we are not bound to the parts of ourselves we may find less satisfying. Action and effort, self-awareness, and engagement are all ways to create an identity we can be proud of.
During the middle of our lives, identity may seem like a foregone conclusion, something that occurs through the sheer amount of things required of us. We are parents, we are career driven, we are children of aging mothers and fathers, we are friends, and we are Catholics looking to infuse our faith in all those avenues. As things slow down, we can utilize all those experiences to be a person of use in areas in need. And the choice to do so can enrich our identity.
When you chose to join IVC, you likely didn’t see it as something that would affect your identity. You were deciding to act on your faith, put your beliefs into action and serve others, and become a part of a community of like-minded Catholics where spiritual reflection and service went hand in hand. It’s important to remember that our identity helps us to identify those like-minded people with whom we wish to commune and share our lives. John Green, IVC’s VP for Partnership Engagement, discussed identity in his presentation, IGNATIAN INSIGHTS FOR A MEANINGFUL, FULFILLING RETIREMENT. “Identity exists at the intersection of what makes us most unique and values we share with others as an opportunity to establish a connection.” Take a moment to reflect on how your status as an IVC member reflects the identity you already knew and further defines the person you wish to be.
In his book, Transpirations–Guidance for Head & Heart through Career and Beyond: Ignatian Spirituality For Work, Service and Retirement Transitions, Thomas Bachhuber hones in on some key questions we must ask ourselves when determining how we will discern our own identity. “What are my feelings (motions of the soul), and how is my spirit responding as I consider this transition? How can I identify and then gather the graces (relationships, internal and external resources) which will bring me the support/guidance I need to make this transition successfully?” Those are two, among many, of the thoughts Bachhuber highlights, and I am sure they are familiar to most of you. As IVC members, you sought, consciously or not, guidance through prayer and contemplation to help you discover a way to serve and practice your faith as you enter this new time in your life. We are grateful your reflection led you to become a part of the IVC community.
Each step in the journey of defining yourself plays a role in creating your identity. Serving with IVC is no different. At this stage of your life, it would be easy to cut back on the ways you actively seek to define and enrich your identity, but you have decided to continue on that journey. Consider friends of yours who are at a similar stage in their life yet feel unfulfilled.