Our Eight Identities

Dear Reader,

I recently went to orientation for the college I will be attending in the fall: Miami University. At this event, we were put into small groups with whom we ate with, dormed with (for the most part), and familiarized ourselves with. In these small groups, we played light, little ice breakers to get to know one another. Our last one, however, was a bit deeper and more personal. And I thought I would share it because 1) it’ll introduce myself a little further for anyone who cares to learn more and 2) it’s an interesting idea for an ice breaker that could bring a group closer or just more aware of the problems others deal with in relation to their own. So without further ado, here is the ice breaker: Eight Identities.

Each one of us has eight identities. Eight categories that we fall into. Eight characteristics that make up who we are. So each person in the group will need eight pieces of paper. On each piece you will write something specific to the category that pertains to you.

1. GENDER: on the first paper, write what gender you identify yourself with. I put female.

2. SEXUAL ORIENTATION: on the next, each person should write their sexual orientation (and don’t worry because not all of these will be shared if you don’t want to). So you can put straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc. I wrote straight.

3. BACKGROUND: for background, write where you came from. Where your ancestors originated from. My mother was born and raised in Canada and my father’s family is German (thus the name: Neiswander, which was once Nuenschwander), so I wrote Canada & Germany.

4. ETHNICITY: which ethnicity you identify yourself with. I put white.

5. SOCIOECONOMIC LEVEL: on this piece of paper, write where your family falls financially. Again, it’s not necessary to share all of these identities, but it’s important to be truthful with yourself. So you can write working class, lower middle class, higher middle class, upper class, etc. I wrote higher middle class.

6. RELATIONSHIPS: this may be the most involved identity. On this paper, write all of the relationship roles you identify yourself with. I wrote sister, daughter, grand-daughter, niece, sister-in-law, aunt-to-be, and friend. You can also write goddaughter/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, mother/father, etc., if you fall into those categories.

7. RELIGION: write the religion you believe in, if any at all. This one was by far the hardest for me because I definitely believe in something, but I am embarrassingly ignorant in this subject and wasn’t raised with any kind of church or temple to be a part of. I just put Christian and will leave it at that, but this topic will probably resurface in a future entry.

8. PHYSICAL/MENTAL ABILITY: for the last piece of paper, write how able you are, physically and mentally. If there are no illnesses, you can write able-bodied. If there are, you can name them here. This includes diagnoses such as depression, arthritis, diabetes, etc. For my card, I wrote ADD and POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome).

Once everyone is finished writing, they should take a moment to look through their cards and read their identities silently to themselves, thinking about all of the stories and experiences behind each one. When that’s finished, it’s time to put them in order. You start with the one that is least important to you. Either least important meaning you don’t think it really matters or causes much difference, or meaning it’s not how you commonly categorize yourself or describes who you truly are very well. You continue doing this from least to greatest until you have a stack of eight identities that start with the ones that are most important to you. When everyone is finished with this step, you’ll go around the circle and share your top two. You don’t have to elaborate on any if you don’t want to, and you don’t even have to be specific (ex: you can say my top one was socioeconomic level without saying which category you fall into), it is just encouraged that you share two traits–two identities about yourself.

My top pieces of paper read, “ADD and POTS” and “sister, daughter, grand-daughter, niece, sister-in-law, aunt-to-be, and friend.”

My relationships with the people around me are important because I am lucky to have such loving and supportive people in my life. I’m lucky enough to be going to a college and rooming with my best friend, and I know she will stay by my side, but I’m also aware that the transition is going to be rough. And leaving my sister behind, who is just two years younger and one of the closest people in my life, is going to be ridiculously hard. But we’ll get through it despite the 200 miles between us. I also put in sister-in-law and aunt-to-be because my oldest sister married her high school sweetheart in November of 2012 and they recently announced that they’re expecting! I love that my family is expanding and am so excited to welcome the new baby into our lives.

My most important “identity” dealt with my physical/mental ability. As I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I was diagnosed with ADD in the summer after my freshman year of high school. I’ve been put on countless medications and felt like a guinea pig for much of the next three years while trying to decide for myself if I even really had the disorder. And my prescriptions were ridiculous. Once, I was prescribed to take three pills in the morning, two when I got home, and another one at night if I wanted to study some more. Another kind of medication would make my heart beat wildly once it kicked in. When I told that to my doctor she informed me that that wasn’t normal behavior and sent me to a cardiologist, where I got diagnosed with a dysautonomia disorder.

This happened a year ago this month, actually, and I am still trying to adapt to it. It’s not fatal or even difficult to manage really, I just mostly have to watch what I eat and consume a lot of sodium. But these two diagnoses have made me become more aware of the differences between me and others and I’ve had to learn how to deal with them on my own, which has been quite the struggle. Still, they’re both a part of me and they make me who I am.

So that’s the ice breaker. It was really interesting to learn more about people and it’s always good to partake in an exercise where you have to be completely honest with yourself, I think.




Small Group #5; yes I know I look way too excited for this picture. I thought we were all doing the same thing. I’m embarrassing.

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