As a long-time migrant, who’s lived outside her ‘home’ country nearly as long as she lived within its borders, I’m no stranger to existing in a space neither here nor there. Nor is this particular moment my first professional transition.
It is, however, the first time I’ve needed to truly redefine who and what I am at least in part, moving from a space and time in which I identified primarily as an ‘instructor’ of a very specific type to no longer laying claim to that title or identity. I am uncertain, about what role or position I will occupy in future, in addition to a great many other things. But, perhaps, removing the label ‘ & instructor’ from my email signature was yet one more difficult step in this rather lengthy transition.
Victor Turner referred to that betwixt and between reality that accompanies rites of passage within specific cultures as ‘liminal states’. We transition from one thing to another, but that period in the middle of opposing states leaves us hovering between identities, between what we were and what we will become. Typically, participants in processes and rituals have a label waiting for them to claim and occupy, although what that means for and to them might remain rather undefined and illusive.
I was an instructor until yesterday at 12.01 in the afternoon; I am not sure what I will become in the weeks and months to come.
Despite occupying an undefined liminal state, despite being what is referred to as a liminoid, a weird term applied to those of us fortunate enough to live in this post-industrial gig economy that demands multiple skills and talents, I am not one thing. ‘Instructor’ was simply one identity of many, and one which offered more than a paycheck, becoming an identity which was as much personal as it was intellectually challenging and rewarding in equal measure and unexpected albeit welcome ways.
I am a woman. I am a feminist. I am a wife, thankfully to a fellow feminist. I am a friend, as well as a daughter and in-law. I am a craftivist, a reader and a bibliophile. I am a writer, and I am a bloody good editor, although not of my own texts (who is, I wonder?). I am a runner, gratefully so. I am an anthropologist, more precisely a medical anthropologist. I am an American, despite questioning my ability at this point to physically live in my home country again for so many reasons. I am an activist. I am a lover of coffee and gin, depending upon the time of day. I am a birder, obsessed with tiny, loud baby woodpeckers and finding the nests of our neighbourhood goshawks. I am a migrant. I am a Deadhead. I am a science communicator. I am.
So many of these individual identities featured if not required transitions from one state to another, some instantaneous, others slow-burning transformations which took years. Others still feel like goals, as if I am in the process of becoming them. Some identities pervade my every action, whilst others happily occupy less-visible outward expressions. And, naturally, this list does not represent the totality of who and what I am.
There will come a day when I move beyond this liminality, and enter into a status and identity which will offer some new meaning and new status to me. What that will be, I do not know. When that will be is a nonspecific ‘eventually’.
Years ago, one of my mentors would answer the question, ‘How are you?’, with ‘I am.’
So, for now, I am…. Temporarily, I am becoming something else. And, that’s okay.