Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with:

Sometimes, I Feel Like A Man With No Identity

Posted by Ben Nadel
Tags: Life

A long time ago, I watched a movie in which a husband was arguing with his wife. She was trying to stop him from doing something. And, to her objections, he pleaded desperately, "Please - I have to do this; as a man, I need to do this." I can't remember what movie it was; but, I believe that we can all relate to this sentiment in some form. At the end of the day, we all have our own identity - we all have somebody that we want to be. And, when that identity gets stripped from us, it can be devastating.


 
 
 

 
 The company men. 
 
 
 

For the past few weeks, I've been in a little bit of a funk. I haven't given it much thought, drifting from day to day, assuming that I'll just muscle through it. But, over the weekend, I watched a heartbreaking movie - The Company Men. In the movie, thousands of people lose their jobs as a multibillion dollar company downsizes. The movie chronicles the toll that such a change can take on a few of their lives.

While the practical implications of job loss are obvious, there is perhaps another subtle, but equally devastating outcome - the loss of identity. For many - myself included - a job isn't just a source of income, it's an outlet and a means to self-expression. And, without a job, we can quickly lose sight of who we are. We can cease to feel complete.

After watching this movie, I started to think about my own identity and the dip that I've been going through. How do I define myself? When I wake up in the morning, who is the person that I long to be?

When I dig deep, I can come up with four core threads to my own personal fabric. I am:

There are many other things in life that I love; but, it is only when these four things come under attack that I truly feel like I lose a sense of who I am. And the erosion doesn't have to be wide-spread; if any one of these threads begins to unravel, I can very quickly feel a sense of incompleteness.

Watching "The Company Men" definitely struck a chord in me; I have people in my life - people that I love - that I don't know how to help. I can't provide for them. But this is not the only area in which I have felt yearning. For months, my workouts have been a joke; my diet is junky and my strength is way down. And, when it comes to programming, I haven't been moving forward at all; there are a million things that I want to learn that I simply haven't made the time for them.

The good news is, identity is (mostly) internal. No one can take it from me - I can simply allow it to degrade. This means that the power [and the responsibility] to rebuild is in my hands. I know what I have to do. The path before me is clear. I just have to start walking it.

Tweet This Groovy post by @BenNadel - Sometimes, I Feel Like A Man With No Identity Thanks my man — you rock the party that rocks the body!



Reader Comments

I'm with on this. I lost my job for a weekend (bloody .gov contracts), and had no access to my "new" work for close to two weeks. Thankfully I had vacation time I could burn, but this just left me devastated. Couple that with the fact that I'm a father of five, work from home full time as their primary care giver right now, sent me around the twist for a good month.

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Was the movie Rocky II? Rocky wants to fight Apollo, but Adrian doesn't want him to. Up in their bedroom, he says to her, "I never asked you to stop being a woman. Please... I'm begging you please, don't ask me to stop being a man"?

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@Ben,

I know exactly what you mean. I'm a 4th degree blackbelt who gives presentations at national level computer user groups. At tournaments, I feel like I'm the only computer guru. At computer user groups, I feel like I'm the only 4th degree blackbelt. Neither one represents the whole person.

I think it's called alienation, the feeling that you're not really part of the groups you belong to. "Just because you have something in common with someone, doesn't mean you have anything in common with them." (quoting my alienation paradox)

But then, that's your uniqueness, right Ben?

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I gave up trying to identify myself and instead decided to focus on the things I can do. Both approaches sound the same but they're not. I believe people spend too much time trying to typecast themselves.

In your case, your short list would convert to a much longer list like:

- (I'm a romantic) I can write and think cool thoughts about...
- (A programmer) I can write kick-ass CF/jQuery/etc. code...
- (A weight lifter) I can bench-press this, squat that...
- etc
- etc

Then you'd add more stuff and as you live more, new things. That can really move you forward.

For example, the other day I learned how to cook chicken milanese. That simple thing made my day.

Cheers

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@Ben,

I find myself in the same sort of semi-existential, semi-concrete "who am I, and what is my life for" type of inner dialogue. I used to think about myself in terms of my abilities, but have recently started thinking in terms of my capacities. Instead of thinking about how awesome I am at some type of task, I am trying to think of myself as someone who excels at figuring out how to do tasks like that. Instead of "being an awesome developer," I now "really like learning stuff about development."

I think that focusing on being awesome prevents you from getting any more awesome. Watch kids sometimes. The really good ones, the ones worth keeping? They fall down a lot. They take things apart, and fail miserably trying to put them back together. They lose friends. And then they retain all this great knowledge about how to get up, how to use the tools they have, and which friends are worth keeping.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just trying to figure this whole "life" thing out, too. ;)

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A Must Read:

"Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge

He says every man needs:
1. An adventure to live
2. a battle to fight
3. and a beauty to rescue

Trust me one this one.....

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@Matthew,

Sorry to hear about your hard times. Sounds like you got back into it, though? If I'm understanding you?

@Charlie,

I don't think it was Rocky. It's driving me crazy that I can't remember what it's from. I spent like 20 minutes trying to Google the quotes. I'm probably misremembering it.

@WebManWalking,

Fourth degree black-belt... awesome :)

I don't necessarily feel alienated anywhere. But, there is a certain amount of self-respect that gets wrapped up in identity. Take the Gym for instance; I've been trying to go more consistently lately. But, even when I'm there now, there is always a subtle mockery as to my showing up and the fact that I have to leave "early" in order to get back before my lunch break is over.

It used to be, I was one of the strong guys in the gym (or that is how some people made me feel). Now, I'm the guy who shows up ... sometimes.

There was a dream that was Ben, and it has to be re-realized.

@Tomas,

I think ultimately, you have hit upon the core of this problem. It *is* about doing. If you look at my list, no part of my primary identity consists of elements that I could simply "fall" into. Sure, I am an American. I am a man. I am a New Yorker... but none of these truly defines me. I have to be, necessarily, defined by my actions.

And so, it must be the lack of action that leads to my diminished identity. I just have to start putting one foot in front of the other.

@Glen,

Ha ha, would you believe that I've never seen any of the Godfather movies :)

@Rob,

You also make a good point. I think part of what prevents me from moving forward in certain respects is that I feel overwhelmed with the kind of time that would require. So much of my life is composed of bite-sized actions that I can fit into a certain amount of time, whether it be a morning, an evening, or maybe - sometimes - a Saturday. I do definitely find myself self-limiting away from anything that may require much more than that.

I need to get over that. It's a big concern.

@Tim.,

Hmmmm, maybe. I have that one on DVD. Nothing like a good excuse to rewatch a good movie ;)

@Adam,

Ha ha, I like that list. I'll have to check it out, thanks :)

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@Ben,

Aye, back on my feet for now. We'll see what September brings as our contract is up for rebidding after only a year (instead of the typical 7).

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You need to budget a certain amount of time for self pity every week. I budget a couple of hours. Then, you get on with life and do what you have to do.

Life is good. It is also short. Try to go for walks, visit museums or libraries, do stuff that shows off the incredible things that people have done through the ages. That helps me refocus.

The big thing is to have friends to talk with and enjoy company. Work is only part of your life.

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Ben,

If you aren't failing, you aren't trying to fail hard enough. I think that excellence isn't about maintaining all the things at which you excel. You're right, nobody has time for that, and the mere act of trying will set you up for failure. For me, I think the goal is to accept a certain level of failure as "growing pains." This is tough for me; I abhor failure. I could very well be wrong, but I have this feeling that anxiety about losing relevance won't make me awesome - just anxious, and possibly even more likely to fail.

That being said, and to bring it back to the original post, I hate failure, (it sounds as if you do, too) and anything that makes me feel like I'm exposed to the possibility of failure in an area I believe that I once owned strikes me in the man-stuff. Holding on to what you are can be daunting sometimes, especially if you didn't see it slipping away and have to react after the fact.

I learned to juggle a while back - and one of the things I realized recently is that juggling isn't about precisely controlling all the trajectories involved. Rather, it's about trying to control your arms, and trusting that the balls are going to do what they've done a million times before: fall down.

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  • Please - I have to do this; as a man, I need to do this.

A lot of men use this as an excuse to cheat.

Sorry to get off topic, and I won't rant about it. :-/

Anyway, @Ben, I am a programmer...or at least I program...and as such, I would consider myself a problem solver. I see problems everywhere,and want to solve them, because it's what I do.

As such, I will try not to see this as a problem, and try not to solve it. Because it's really not, and it doesn't need to be solved.

I can understand what you are going through, because I have experienced it before. I have gone through waves of it. It's like this vicious cycle...it cycles through, and back around.

One of my 'problems' is that I have WAY TOO MUCH identity (at least most of the time). I am way too many things, or at least try to be way to many things. It makes me short on time. It causes me to burn out. At times, it prevents me from becoming truly excellent at any one thing, because I am trying my hand at and doing so many things.

I once heard that there is a huge difference between being 'shy' and 'introverted'. A lot of people consider the two to be synonomous. They really, technically are not. I have experienced this before. I don't think too many could legitimately accuse me of being shy. And I am usually, usually as extroverted as you can get, but I can get pretty introverted, too, at times. And sometimes, it is to a point and extreme that is not good. And I think it comes, at least partly, from me being a bit of a narcisist. Me becoming a narcisist, at least a little bit, was a part of surviving. Sometimes, at least in my life, it is just downright necessary.

The point I am trying to get to is that one of the times when I was feeling like I was beginning to lose my identity, I looked outward instead of inward. I started helping others, and made my life about helping others. I won't claim to be a saint by any means, and I am not one of those who sacrifices all of my time in that way, nor do I think that everyone should or can. And by helping people, I don't mean taking time to go and rebuild their house, etc. (there are already people for that). I'm just talking about simple things you can do for various people every day.

The workout thing sounds like a plateau, and I could be wrong. But it may be that your struggling with interest there. Again, I could be wrong...just a guess. But if your passion for it stays strong, you'll find your way back to it.

@Webmanwalking...I feel ya! There are many areas in my life I am in where I feel like I don't fit in, because "none of the other <insert identity noun>s don't do that"

For example: @work one time, a guy told me that I couldn't possibly be a programmer (as in he didn't believe it), because I was a young girl he considered 'hot'. (yeah, I know, he was probably trying to just get in my pants, but still...)

I've done the Martial Arts thing (can't boast a black belt), and I have noticed the same thing...that a lot of them aren't 'computer people'.

I did sports in college, and it was rare that any of the other atheletes had any interest in academics, as I did.

I'm a programmer who went to law school (that is really rare).

I've been a female wrestler before.

I've been a lot of things that 'females aren't supposed to do'. I've broken the mold of your traditional, accepted female, and yet I am traditional in my beliefs about dating.

I am a Christian, yet consider myself to be a scientist, somewhat, as well.

As a Christian, I DO follow a sense of logic and reason, and I have come to realize ways you can, even though most of the people in the scientific community don't recognize it.

I was told by a boyfriend who considered me to be hot that I couldn't possibly be intelligent, because he didn't think hot girls could be intelligent. He never did think I had any smarts.

I have many contradictions of characteristics, and sometimes, it is hard to find a place to belong when you do. Also, when you have many sides and are a complex person, it is hard to find a place you fit into. When all of the holes are shaped a certain way, it is hard to find one that you fit into just right when you have so many angles and curves (and a few straight edges as well)

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I think for women, the identity thing is a little different. Part of being "the feminine" is being passive. Culture also doesn't expect us to be providers, so we're less likely to wrap up much of our ego in our careers.

That said, I do know the "who am I? what am I doing?" feeling very well. For me, I believe it's a by-product of achieving most of the goals I set when I was just starting out. A sort of "what now?" feeling.

My FWIW rules:
1. Always forgive yourself first.
2. Happiness isn't a destination. It's a choice.
3. Perfection is the enemy, fight it. Make friends with "good enough."
4. Improving in anything requires admitting that you don't already know it all. Newsflash: nobody does. Not even Ben Forta. (You already do this as a healthy amount of technical and personal humility is required when you hang it all out there in a blog.)
5. All things are *never* equal...and we don't live in a vacuum.
6. "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." - Socrates. But then again, we all know how he ended up. ;-)

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Oh, if only that were true. And maybe in your part of the country or world, it is, but not where I live! Women are absolutely expected to be providers. First of all, of course, we are expected to provide for ourselves. That's ok. But the problem is, we are also expected to provide for any children that come out of any union (if there is a union). That's ok, too. But often times, we are also expected to provide, at least partly for the relationship. Even that is ok with me, and I am well equiped to do it. Fine. I won't complain.

The problem I have with the female-women situation is this: Not only are we expected to provide, sometimes not just for ourselves, but for our offspring, and at least partly for the relationships in our life, but we are also expected to keep the house clean...I mean spic and span. White-glove clean...not a book out of place, not a speck of dust on anything. We are expected to come home from a long day at the office, drive home in 90-98 degree heat...race home...and if we are unfortunate enough to be in a relationship with a man in our life, we are expected to race home so that we can beat him home, so we can slave in front of a hot stove (after being in 90-98 degree heat on the way home) for 1-2 hours so that we can have supper for him at least some time around the time he gets home. Furthermore, if there are offspring involved, we are expected to take up the slack and change at least 80-90% of the diapers that are caused by this baby living, breathing, eating etc....at least through the diaper years, and then we are expected to do whatever raising a baby/kid calls for...help them with their homework, for example, bathe them, etc.

Men are so darn lazy.

Ok...so I am not referring to all of the men, just the men who think like this and expect this, which is what a lot of men expect, and how a lot of men think.

After we have slaved away all day...both at work, providing and at the stove, and as "housewives", even though we work and bring home at least some of the bacon, then we are expected to be in the mood for it and have porn-star level sex with the man all or at least until he is too tired to go on and passes out from exhaustion. Being exhausted yourself, you are finally allowed and able to go to bed so that you can get up in a few hours and let the cycle start all over again.

In some relationships, when some men cheat, their explanation for it is that she wasn't putting out enough. Well, he expected all of this crap out of her, and then, at the end of the day, she wasn't exactly in the mood for it.

Ok...sorry...that's just my rant for the day.

See, that's the problem with feminism. It looks pretty and is wrapped up in colorful attractive paper with a nice pretty bow, but in the end it winds up hurting the women it attempts to help. Men are ALL FOR feminism and sending their women off to work, letting them deal with a work day and bringing home the bacon (or part of it), etc., but then they expect us also to come home and carry on and carry out the traditionally excepted roles of a woman as well...and you can't have it both ways. Something's got to give. This is why so many women suffer.

For me, I am 100% ok with the traditional roles. In some ways, I wish it WAS still like the 50's (or whenever that was)...where the man went off to work. His wife kisses him on the cheek (or elsewhere) as seh says good-bye. They playfully flirt, hug, as they remind themselves and each other what the man has to return home to. Then, the woman keeps the house, does everything to prepare the house for when the man comes back home (because women, let's face it...you're gonna be doing that anyway, whether you 'work' a 'real job' or not), and then when the husband comes home, she is ready for him.

I would be ok with that. I would be able to keep things clean...if that were my job. I would have an awesome house for the man to come home to, and I could be an awesome person for him to come home to, instead of the hag that he gets instead who has been working all day, only to come home and take care of all the crap at home, also.

On the other hand, if it were my job 100% to take care of the bacon...the bills, etc...I could do that, too. To be the provider. 100%. If I had a man who were willing...and that is the key...to keep the house great and as I would, and also to keep whatever offspring comes out of the union (if there were any)...as well as I would, then I would be ok with that as well. I'm able enough for my family to get by in that situation.

The only problem with that 2nd scenario is that the woman has still not caught up with the man salary-wise, so there will have to be an adjustment (in rare cases this is not the case, but that is rare). If they both could do it, that is fine. But the reason I usually say let the woman take the traditional role and let the man provide, is because there are still so many employers who are willing to pay the man more than the woman. And financially, traditional roles just work out better. (it also works out better for the woman, because she is not run so ragged).

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@Ben - G-d knows, I love your blog. You've solved many a challenge and provide an invaluable reference to your fellow CF devs, but you provide such thought provoking fodder.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently left the military after 17 years, 6 or 7 of it active duty and the rest in the Guard. I used to define myself as a paratrooper and the dashing maroon beret.

But I've been a programmer now for about 14 years, too, and I've always been the nerdy Jewish guy (hence why I became a paratrooper, to rise above that).

A good Guard friend recently killed himself after two back-to-back combat tours, one in Iraq followed almost immediately by Afghanistan. The local press made it all about PTSD, but this guy, no, he was a soldier before everything else. He was a prior service Marine who saw combat in Gulf War I. He lived to kick down doors and destroy the enemy. I knew him well enough to say that he came alive in uniform, and after two back to back tours and suddenly dropped right back into his civilian existence, he lost himself, who he was, and desperation and loneliness set in. No purpose, listless and drifting, and he couldn't live without that purpose.

So yeah, I get Company Men - we derive our identity from our purpose, and I don't think that's something that respects gender. Granted, there is a degree of gender bias that doesn't exclude women, but the preponderance of male rumination on the work topic has a corollary in the nurturing roles a woman plays in traditional culture, vis a vis the "empty nest" identity-crisis scenarios one associates with housewives whose children grow up and move away. The specifics are less important than the reality: we are defined by our perceived purpose.

I may well have been my friend. After 17 years it's hard to deal with the disassociation from the service. But I have kids. I have a wife. I have my role in an observant Jewish community. I could stop programming tomorrow, but I couldn't lose those three core things, even if they change or shift their nature as time progresses. I loved being a soldier almost as much as everything else, and giving it up was like losing a significant chunk of my identity, but I look in the mirror, and it's still me looking back. It's just me - repurposed.

Thanks for the stimulating topic! All the best,
bk

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@Adam,

I read "Wild at Heart." It's an interesting book. Definitely a heavily religious book (which doesn't necessarily strike a chord in me); but, I think a lot of what he says aligns well with the things I say. I think much of my desire for romance and lifting and programming can be seen as the "beauty", the "battle", and the "adventure", respectively... perhaps.

I tend not to think so much along gender lines; but rather just trying to look deep within me to find the deepest desires that I have. If those are seeding in gender, so be it; but, no matter where they come from, I am always trying to get more intouch with the "Ben" :)

The author really loves Braveheart and Gladiator. They are definitely "battles"; but, ironically, I think he misses (or at least) doesn't tout the fact that they are both deeply romantic movies. In both cases, neither of them wants to be in battle. Braveheart turns down the opportunity to fight; in Gladiator, all he wants to do is return home to his family. Neither of them sees the glory in war. They all just want to be with the women / families they love.

It is only *after* their respective wives are murdered that they need to focus their anger and pain into something. And, in fact, at the end of both movies, the last visions that either men sees is that of their wives. In Braveheart, he isn't thinking about the freedom of Scotland. As he is disembowled, he looks over and sees his wife walking through the crowd. In Gladiator, visions of his family flash through mind as he bleeds to death.

In fact, I believe the Empress, doesn't she say something like, "Go to her", as he is dying.

Anyway, I just thought it was a bit funny that he chose those movies which, are on the surface, very battle oriented; but, under analysis, are actually deeply romantic. Both of which, I am sure he [John Eldridge] would approve of.

Awesome movies :)

@Matthew,

Awesome my man - good to hear it!

@Roger,

Agreed. I love to walk too - been walking a lot in the city. Especially now that the temperature has started to become more reasonable in the last few days. In fact, this weekend, I might go up north to a place where there is a walking bridge across the Hudson river.

@Rob,

I don't mind failure in action. In fact, I try to embrace it. Sometimes, I try to do things that I know I will fail at.... just in case I don't actually fail. I read once a quote that went something like:

True success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.

I always liked that. I think it's right on!

The failure that I am more concerned right now is the failure TO act. I just feel a bit stuck, like I am not moving forward (or in any direction).

But, right now, my whole body hurts - in a good way. I am getting back into the gym. My body is not used to it. But I am doing it anyway. Gotta keep moving.

@Anna,

I hope you are no longer dating the guy who thought that hot women couldn't be smart. That's just crazy talk :D I find the smarter a woman is, the hotter she appears.

@Sharon,

Women are definitely encultured with less agressive behavior and desires than men. But then again, I LOVE movies in which girls kick ass :) And of course, who doesn't love the movie Working Girl. We have a strange culture, torn between gender identity and a millenium of stagnant ideas. At the end of the day, we all just need to find the things that make us happy... regardless of why those feeling are there to begin with.

I love your list, btw. Very good stuff! I have, recently, been trying more and more to accept that "good enough" is sometimes the only option; and, especially the only option if you intent to move forward. This is difficult one to grasp sometimes. But I am trying.

@Anna,

In my life, I have always tried to keep the point of view that if I can't be bothered to do it, why would I expect anyone else to. I am a physically clean person. I love clean clothes and I LOVE to shower. I often times shower twice a day (morning to get going and night to wash off - especially on days I worked out). BUT, I don't care that much about my surroundings. I live in a basement apartment that hasn't been vacuumed in like 2 years. I collect dust bunnies :)

When I am in a relationship, I would never expect a woman to clean for me (and this often confuses my male AND female friends). I always think to myself, I don't care if this place is dusty - why would I expect anyone else to clean it. If / when it becomes important, I would rather *hire* someone to clean it every few weeks that delegate that to my girlfriend.

The same goes for food. But then again, I live in a big city where I can't walk 100 feet without passing my 3 delis, a super market, and 10 restaurants. Food here is abundant like the air. And, if you buy food at the market (even pre-cooked food), it's really not much more expensive than cooking it yourself. And, when you factor in the time you save, you're probably paying YOURSELF not to have to cook. So, in this kind of place, it would almost seem backwards to expect a GF to cook for me.

I grew up in a house where my mom was an AMAZING cook. I mean, seriously good. We had a built-in wok in the house, in addition to stoves and ovens. Our family always lived in the kitchen... and even with that, which was great, I still wouldn't expect, nor honest, to care, if someone cooked for me.

To each their own, I suppose.

@Matt,

Best hug ever! :D

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@Brian,

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. War, and re-entry into civilian life can really mess people up.

A while back, I watched The Hurt Locker. In the movie, the main guy works at disarming bombs for the military. It's a pretty good movie (thought not as good as I was hoping). When the guy gets send back home, though, at the end, there is a really sad scene in his house. If I recall, he is talking to his daughter, abstractly, about how once a man does one thing for so long, it's all he knows, and when he loses that, what else is there for him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GILIUfKClWI

It's an intense movie.

I'm glad you brought up the fact that you could stop programming; but, that you couldn't lose all three things that make you, You. Earlier, I was perhaps a bit too dramatic about how quickly I lose my identity. There have been times when I have gone months without working out at all. I have also had periods in which I was single for years (though, in fairness, I try to never stop being romantic). I can lose a core part of my life. But, I can't start to lose several parts of my life. Probably, what has hit me hard this time is that I feel like working out AND programming is being threatened. Two things is too much to bear. I need to bring something back, in to the light.

But, I am getting there :D

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@Anna - I balk at any ubiquitous definitions of the gender breakdown, but I see what you are saying.

The world is full of inelegant or perhaps, in the right package, elegant dichotomies. And sometimes there's a false choice posed, too, in the form that a salary disparity between genders would not mean that in a family unit, *both* incomes are so necessary that the role of a traditional provider is a cooperative effort rather than an either/or. I think that the amorphous nature of these roles is in part killing us.

Also, I think your post previous to that was utterly fascinating. Perhaps it is a case of you having crowded out a sense of identity, but it seems as much like standing in opposition to perceived expectations of a pulchritudinous woman is of high importance to you. The aggregate theme is more telling than the details.

I imagine you were being more illustrative than anything, but I wonder if definition in opposition to this or that societal convention yields much in terms of identity, or even really has adverse implications. If you ever come up empty on "who you are," does it work to answer by exclusion? "I am not this," doesn't answer the question of who you are. I know, for instance, that I am not a Greenland shark, which while disappointing, doesn't help the long process of elimination. Which of the things you listed gave you the most feeling of purpose?

I think Castaway or Robinson Caruso is equally germane to the topic. Who are we when we can't exist in the context of how others see us? Would you as a Christian or I as a Jew talk to G-d or a face-painted volleyball? And would we project our own understanding of self onto either?

What an engaging topic!

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@Ben, thankfully, no I am not with the guy who thinks hot girls are dumb by extension any more.

Sorry to rant about guys...I know there are still some good guys out there, and a few of them may even still be available. :-) I, unfortunately, have apparently just had really bad judgment of guys in my past, and hopefully I have learned from it. Talk about failing!

And honestly...I love to cook. Wasn't really complaining about it in and of itself. It's just that, if I am going to work 40 - 60 hours a week, I may not feel like coming home and doing that EVERY night.

One of the reasons I love to cook has to do with liking to eat healthy (at least most of the times). But just even the cooking itself is a fun thing to do. As a Saturday night date, I don't necessarily feel like getting all dolled up and going out to the trendiest restaurant in town...or even the movie theatre or whatever. SOMETIMES, the perfect date night is to go by the grocery store on the way home, amass a collection of ingrediants, meet at his or my house, and then get started in the kitchen and cooking together. We both usually learn something. It's fun. We MAY still end up in the end going out and getting something to eat, if it is ruined, but it is an adventure in the making, nonetheless.

Cooking is like this scientific experiment to me, where you have this awesome lab, and you have these chemicals that are general available to the public, and you mix them together and hopefully make something magic and tasty as well. I'm an ok cook as it is. I still like to follow instructions and recipes -- a lot. Sometimes, it is required for me to be a success at it. But sometimes, I like to go off the recipe and experiment with it a little bit too. Sometimes, I become downright mad scientist in the kitchen. But it's all good, and fun, too. That being said about the chemicals, I do not like boxes of food you buy at the store that mainly has just 'chemicals' in them that you can not pronounce and that probably have a bad effect on your body. That's one of the reasons I like to cook.

One of the other advantages of my Saturday night cooking date night is that oftentimes, you don't make just one serving. So you have leftovers for at least part of the week on those days when you really are working a 10 - 12 hour day and don't feel like getting anything.

I love food, what can I say? It's like a passion for me. Trying to eat healthy, and cooking, fits into that passion really well.

As an aside to the healthy eating thing...I am guilty of the occasional sweet treat that is not AT ALL healhty...and how fun is deep frying??? :-) I got a box of beignet mix (I know...in a box...shame on me!), which I will eventually prepare and fix into little beignets. And no, I'm not going to eat them ALL. Then I would probably really be about the size of a house, or shaped like it. I plan on fixing them...MAYBE eating one, at least (to make sure they taste ok, of course), and then I will bring the rest of them to the office and hope the people in my office eats them so that I don't end up eating them all.

I guess my cooking is ok...decent. Maybe good. I have a friend who tasted one of my dishes and said it was like having an 'O' in her mouth, and I would have said the same thing as well eating that particular dish, but I think that has more to do with the ingrediants than any skill of cooking on my part.

Your locale sounds perfect! Being so close and all to eateries. That would fit in well also with my passion for food. I love being in a place where I can walk to anywhere. I love walking. I'll walk to a restaurant, even if it is a mile away (or even more)...I have many times. Also love hiking, too, and I used to run quite a bit.

Showering is also an activity that is fun to be shared w/ someone else. :-P

I guess, growing up w/ so many sisters, we just did so much together, I am used to doing things with other people...things that a lot of people consider to be the kinds of things you do alone. Another one of those things is sleeping. I don't mind if I am sleeping and there is more than just me there doing it.

@Brian Kresge - your stuff was awesome. Reminded me of when I was a lifeguard, and I was trained by a marine. He kept growling, "there is no girl lifeguard and guy lifeguard. There are just lifeguards. Don't use being female as a crutch". But I loved him, he was awesome, and he thought I was the best lifeguard out there.

I guess since I have done so many things that are considered 'male-oriented', I kind of consider myself to be very gender neutral. I really kind of don't consider myself to have a gender. I mean, physically, I guess I am a female. Although, I think I have more testosterone than most females. But I don't think I have any less estrogen either than most females...I think I have more. On that, I am mainly just going by how I am built.

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@Ben

I liked the Hurt Locker. A lot of my friends disliked it because of its wartime inauthenticity, but for me it didn't diminish the poignancy of what you cited. Perhaps more than any wartime film, it spoke well to this particular topic. The Deer Hunter almost touched on it, but the immediacy of separation from that identity and trying to regroup - the Hurt Locker captured it so well.

I guess in spite of the great minds who have weighed in on these matters we're all left to our own metrics for self-worth and identity. I hope that if indeed programming and lifting are threatened, that either something else comes along that gives you the same sense of self, or they stop being threatened.

A couple of my corworkers recounted your talk on love at cf.objective. It occurs to me that a guy like you should not be permitted to be single, that we need you amongst the ranks of fathers and husbands. Clearly, you need a wife to tell you what your identity is. I say this with no intended chauvanism, but a behind every programmer is a woman to tell you your variables are scoped incorrectly.

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@Brian Kresge,

I think we were submitting at the same time. I didn't see yours until after I had already submitted mine.

I hesitated to bring up being a Christian. I don't often talk about it, especially to people who are very much against discussing it. If someone asks me about it, or expresses interest in it, I could go on for days about it, but it is something I would rather not bring up if the person I am talking to has an adverse reaction to it.

My philosophy when it comes to that is this: if something about religion cuts someone so deeply...why bother with it...why waste time with it when it is going to throw them off their thoughts and disrupt the flow of good conversation and good discussion. Why not speak with that person about something they want to talk about and about something they want to discuss and can add to and can relate to? Especially when there are so many other things that you can talk about and so many other ways you can relate to this person.

It goes to my philosophy of Christianity itself. I just think that it is a very deeply personal thing. I can't deny it, which is why I brought it up, but I was given so much more of an identity than that alone.

I look to examples I have studied as a part of Christianity to go by and as role models. They didn't force God down people's throats. God himself...the God I believe in...He wants to allow free will and choice. He wants people to come to Him because they CHOOSE to, not because someone else forced them to or told them to. And people we have studied as a part of Christianity...they didn't necessarily always preach first...oftentimes, they would take care of the physical needs of the person first...that is important. The preaching would come later, or in conjunction with the assistance...as a correlation, or as an opportunity to relate it all together, but they woudn't go around JUST preaching to people and JUST telling them what to do and expecting them to do it and forcing them to be something they were not. What it comes down to is, it really is every person's personal choice, and it really is very deeply personal.

About @Ben being single. He should stay single, because @ least then, we would know that there still is at least 1 good single guy out there, even if he is the last one. :-) I'm joking a bit, but it is good to know that there are some good guys out there who are still available. lol

@Ben,

I meant to say this earlier, but there have been periods when I didn't work in the programming field (as you know, I have done some acting before). I have also done some things that were kind of related to programming, but not programming exactly. For example, I taught as an instructor. But during these times, I didn't really lose a sense of identity too much. I think part of it is that, instead of thinking of myself necessarily as a 'programmer', I think more of myself as a 'problem solver'...and that is something that can transcend many different fields. The languages is just different, and details are different, but it is still problem solving nonetheless.

An example is, I enjoy watching House, MD. I don't watch a lot of television, but this is one that I do enjoy watching from time to time. I got the box set of House so that I am not chained to a television or dependent upon that network's schedule or anything. But the point is that one of the reasons I watched it is because of the puzzles and the problem solving that goes on in the show. It may be surrounded by medical terms, and the language is different, but stripped away from langauge, certain details, and certain circumstances, it is still problem solving at it's core.

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@Anna - the funny part is that I served in all male, very sexist units. I don't know why, but the Army would rather put guys so morbidly obese that they wear maternity uniforms in combat than savvy, svelte female operators like that military police soldier who won a Silver Star.

Is it me, or does the Coldfusion community lend itself to having more "personality" than any other? I mean, I've had my other foot in the Microsoft world for as long as I've been in the CF, and there's no rock stars over there like the CF community has.

and there it is @Ben - you are a rock star. Embrace that identity and let it fulfill you. Avail yourself of attractive, intelligent female coder groupies!

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@Brian Kresge,

I would have to agree...I have known people in other langauges or programming set ups, and such, and I haven't noticed as many personalities out there either. I mean, a 4th degree black belt (@Webmanwalking), how cool is that? I love Martial Arts, I totally dig that! My failure to reach black belt level goes to a lack of ability to focus on any one discipline...I've tried at least 5 or 6 styles.

oh...about your Greenland shark thing. I consider myself to be a snake. I love snakes. I can relate to them. I think they are awesome (I guess that is another seemingly oxymoron...a female who loves snakes) I can see so many awesome characteristics that they have. I don't know that I can say that I truly identify with it, as in...I can't say it brings me identity to say 'I love snakes', but I do. I think they are awesome.

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@Anna
Well...I live in the Metro Boston area. My point was that *culture* doesn't judge women the same way it judges men. I know more than a few women with advanced degrees from Ivy schools who walked away from their professions. Nobody blinked. If they had been men, there would've been questions and sideways looks, even if they walked away to raise kids. Perhaps especially if they walked away to raise kids.

Now, a woman who walks away from children? That is judged *most* harshly. Culture does expect us to be mothers before everything else.

I think the part you're missing is that while women are mostly expected to provide for themselves (and nurture families, etc.) most of us don't tie as much of our personal sense of identity to our careers. I'm a developer. I love that I have a technical job and that I can provide for my family (which is a requirement as a single mother). But when I was laid off, my sense of identity didn't crumble along with my bank account.

I've also been making a conscious effort to base more of my own personal identity on things that I can control. No rabid bean-counting manager can change my love for my kids. The stock market has zero impact on my personal satisfaction in helping others. My body will age, but my intellectual curiosity keeps me child-like on the inside.

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@Brian Kresge
CF does seem to attract certain personality types. Part of what I've loved is that using CF actually pre-selected people and companies to be "like-minded" with me and my beliefs as a developer. What I don't like about PHP/.NET is that it seems like a lot of people chose those technologies because they seemed "safe" rather than actually being the right tool for the job.

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@Anna - I hear that a lot about Christianity, it being very personal. I'm not saying Judaism isn't or can't be personal or spiritual, but it ends up being as much a default communal definition. I don't often find myself discussing the esoteric components of faith, mostly the "can we eat that?" as it applies to delicious, hickory-smoked bacon.

@Sharon - Is it that they're safe, or the additional cost of CF license is hard for non-programming decision-makers to swallow and the unfortunate stereotyping of CF code? I know there are places where .NET has been awesome for me, but nothing that's breaking new ground, just robust capabilities. CF is such a blank slate that so often, for specific solutions, we have to turn to our leaders for their creativity and out of the boxness.
Note I don't mention PHP. I don't believe there's ever a good reason to use PHP for anything besides WordPress or Jack Bauer-esque "the capitol will explode unless you use PHP".

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@Sharon,

I respect you highly for being a single mom. That is a very, very, very hard job to swallow, but one that is very rewarding nonetheless. Being able to do that, work, bring home a paycheck, and every thing else...that deserves high and many kudos! :-)

I get what you are saying about walking away from a job, even with an Ivy League education. This kind of goes back to what I was saying about men making more money than women. My close friend and former college professor/instructor told me that there came a point where he and his wife, who had a degree from an Ivy League school and was considered among her peers to be one of the top programmers in the nation -- he admitted whole-heartedly that she was better at programming than he was, sat down and looked at their finances and had to decided which one of them was going to stay home and take care of the kids while the other went off to another 'full-time' job. They could see from their projections that he was going to make more than she was, he was always going to make more than she was, despite her talent as a programmer and education, and they decided that she was the one who was going to stay home and raise and take care of the kids. She happily quit and stayed at home and raised the kids, and it was the best decision of her life, and she never looked back. This is not an uncommon, one-time, one-case type of situation...it happens with men and women and families every day.

I work as a cf developer (with Oracle), have a degree from college, am not too shabby of a programmer, and have plenty of years behind me as a cf developer, and a versatile skill set to boot that includes tons of database experience, experience with technologies like jquery, javascript, some experience with things like CSS and DHTML, even some flash experience (and some other things). I've data programmers, however, who made WAY more than me, and always would (unless someone dropped a job in my lap that was somehow making more than him...which would never happen). The career path he was on, and the career path I was on...it was going to lead us simultaneously on this road where he was always going to make more than me, and at the end of it, when it came time for retirement, he was still going to be making more than me. (He didn't even have a college degree)

There is a huge discrepancy in pay between males and females. There always has been and there always will be. There are, of course exceptions, industries that are the same or the opposite...modeling being one I can think of. But most businesses and industries I can think of are like this.

As an additional note, I have known many men who put their careers and/or jobs before family and/or children. This seems to be a very inate and natural thing, but it may at least have something to do with society. I have known many women who put their children as top priority, even over their jobs and/or careers. That seems to be a very natural thing for a woman, also.

@Brian Kresge,

I have known many people who were Jewish, and they seem to make it a better community effort than Christianity does. I wish we could learn from them. I embrace the idea of Christianity being involved with the community, and I think we should take care of things in the community, like churches sometimes have done in history. Don't get me wrong, it still happens. A church in Alabama completely rebuilt a house that had been torn to smitherines by the tornadoes for a woman, because FEMA and the federal government told her she did not qualify for help. I wish there were more stories like that to report -- that's the way it should be.

As for the bacon...that's against one's religion if you are Jewish, correct, or am I mistaken here? I know that there are some rules for the Jewish community where food is concerned that they are expected to follow, but I'm not sure at all exactly what they are. I do know that Christianity and my passion for food never are at odds with each other. I know that with Christianity, there aren't really a whole lot of rules with food. There aren't a whole lot of dos or don'ts. We are supposed to take care of our temple, but we leave that pretty much up to interpretation, and up to each individual to decide for themselves what is appropriate. For me, I tend to have a fond heart for nature, and it relates to my Christianity. That's my approach to food as well, which is why I like to purchase produce and other natural foods and then go home and stick it in a pot, pan, oven, deep-fryer, whatever, as opposed to just grabbing a box off the shelf that is filled with chemicals I can't pronounce and that are probably not good for my body.

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@Brian,

I had a great workout today and it had a deeply noticeable impact on my mood. I felt like I was really getting back into it - becoming the person I see in my head. I even tweaked my neck - which sucked - but it didn't rain on my parade. Felt awesome.

But then, I got back to the office and things changed a bit. Had to work on someone else' code. Took me like 2 hours to get my bearing - looking at the code, looking at the database tables, following component paths, getting on the phone to discuss caveats. But then, RIGHT as I was about to start digging into actually writing code, I was pulled of the task and put onto another task that would entail the same thing.

This jumping all over the place completely sucked the energy out of me. And, once again, I have managed to go a whole day without actually writing any code. I feel exhausted and drained.

I'll code tomorrow.

... behind every programmer is a woman to tell you your variables are scoped incorrectly.

Ha ha - awesome :D

@Anna,

First off, House is an *awesome* show! I love it. Though, I think they are only having one more season. The whole House / Cuddy thing is driving me crazy.

I think of myself as a programmer because I definitely love to program; but, perhaps more than that, it is where I feel the most productive. I think part of how I feel Me is when I am producing things. I would guess that can be translated into other areas as well. If I couldn't program, I could do something else where I felt good at producing.

@Brian,

Ha ha, the CF community is awesome! We do have a lot of personality. From the people I've talked to elsewhere, there really is no place like this.

@Sharon,

I was recently watching an episode of Law & Order (one of the greatest shows) and they were trying a woman who allowed her child to starve to death. The baby was suffering from a condition known as "Failure to Thrive" which is a result of malnutrition.

Ultimately, the judge deemed that the mother is considered the "primary care giver"; and, while the father was also to blame for letting it happen, he was not as liable as the mother. To be fair, everyone was disgusted with the father for being such a horrible person; but, only the mother was held legally accountable (from what I remember).

Anyway, it was an interesting episode to watch. Part of why I love L&O so much is that it is often mentally provocative and challenges how you perceive morality and how that fits into the "letter" and the "spirit" of the law.

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@Ben,

I've been there...fixing someone else's code, having to look at someone else's code. One job I had, they were adverstising for a ColdFusion developer, but once I settled into the job, it really wasn't anything more than reading over someone else's Javascript code and finding the picky little things within it that caused it not to work. I remember one time, spending a whole lot of time at work just to find that it was nothing more than a semi-colon missing. Many times, I really just wanted to bang my head against the desk. Or wall. Or whatever.

I have been watching old episodes of House, so I am not familiar with the current status of the Cuddy-House relationship, but I think I know what you are referring to. They built that up for a very long time, and it is really my opinion that they may have been better not letting them get together or putting them together just yet. But who knows? I'm not genius when it comes to that stuff. I just enjoy watching it.

There are times when I am at a job were I like to feel like I am actually getting stuff done. :-)

Law and Order -- I used to watch it a long time ago, some of the episodes of it. But I haven't seen one in awhile. I would have considered the woman's treatment an outrage also. The man had original responsibility for the state he left the mother and her child in, but the mother also has responsibility, and extra responsibility, when something like that happens. She needs to either step up to the plate or step to the side. In that situation...yeah, it may suck, but they don't get to dodge responibility for another human being they helped to create simply because life got tough for them.

(if I am wrong, I apologize. I am only going by what you said.)

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In the ColdFusion world, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the geeks who don't write CF code and the super awesome people that post to BenNadel.com and write CF code. These are their stories.

DUNT DUNT!

  • delicious, hickory-smoked bacon

Keep calm and eat bacon.
http://www.tanga.com/system/cache/700x700%3E/uploaded_files/0056/7880/eatbacon_shirt.png

Ben,

I was going to basically suggest what you're doing -- eat a little better and get a little exercise, maybe something different.

The Funk might be from something deeper, but it can often times (with me, anyway), just simply be lack of (good) sleep and a poor diet.

That said, I've had a couple of long periods of unemployment and UNDERemployment (go to work and get paid, but not really have much to do). That really wears on me much like you're describing -- aimless.

If it gets a whole lot worse, consider professional help, but most likely you just need a change of scenery, a change in your routine (daily and/or workout), go visit a different part of town that you've never been to, call upon a long-lost friend, etc...

And, yes, women are hotter when they're attractive AND smart (@Anna).

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Good luck on walking the path Ben! I to loved the movie company men and feel it strikes a chord with many in America and around the World as what happens in the movie, people losing their jobs and their lively hoods, has been going on for years now with no end in sight!

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@Randall,

That goes back to the difference between those who are programmers and those who simply like to programmer.

I think I can probably legitimately call myself a programmer, because my laptop broke last week, and didn't get fixed until this week...just today. I have been itching to get back to coding. I think with people who simply like to program, they can take longer breaks and not feel a loss, but with people who definitely identify themselves as a programmer, it wears on ya if you go a few days without programming...you start to miss it, and you start jonesin' to be programmin' again! :-)

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@Ben

I really enjoyed your post on this topic. Identity being internal really is a point. I know by now what the four main pillars of my identity are. Take these away, and I'd continue to exist maybe, but I'd stop to live. I was a late starter in finding that out in such clarity. I'm glad I did, cause the older I get, the more people I meet that have given up on finding that out - and I am only 37.

I mean, I find it quite normal to lose focus for a while, like you described, just got to function for a while sometimes. But you always get back to the point of dissatisfaction that makes you get back on track. There's a feeling saying "There's something missing" - knowing your identity means knowing what that is. That's what keeps us striving and getting better. Without a good image of your own identity - there's nothing to strive for, so you just function and wait. Wait for the next holiday, for retirement, basically for stuff that takes place in a presumably better future. Meanwhile you endure life and complain about how hard it is…

I'm not gonna get into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, thats a different discussion about a world where $$ is often being mistaken for identity - just take the money and run ;-)
What I'm trying to say is: The first paragraph of your article pinpoints an essential problem. Many people try to find their meaning in someone else's identity - especially in relationships. Then they find out that identity doesn't mark off (German word is "abfärben" - like "color transfer"). Thats when you get these "why-do-you-have-to-.../why do you always"-arguments, because the no-good-stubborn-useless partner keeps living his identity instead of dedicating his time in developing the other's.

Identity is really something everyone has to find for themselves. You can't take on someone else's - just doesn't feel right. Many of us out there are not aware that all it takes to find yourself is to start taking more responsibility for yourself.

Keep on with this, I really like the mixture of cold coding knowledge and sexy social aspects you write about!

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@Cyriax,

Are you referring to purpose in life? I apologize if completely misunderstanding your comment. My brain is operating at about 70% right now, if that. Was up coding until 3:30 a.m., but I hope to have gotten the correct results...

In terms of identity not getting wrapped up in someone else...that's sometimes an easy trap to fall into, but also a very dangerous one. Dangerous, especially in risk of losing your identity, especially if this person turns bad on you.

By turning bad, I mean this: I didn't necessarily wrap my identity up in a good friend of mine, but she and I did get to be good friends to the point to where I probably saw her at times more than my sister. We would see each other, hang out, for weeks at a time. And of course, several time a week was a minimum at times with this friend. She got jealous of a relationship I had with a guy, and she emailed him "as someone else", and then only admitted it when I was able to figure it out. She emailed him lies about my involvement with another guy...a guy friend I had been friends with for years.

When you get betrayed by a friend on that level, if you have wrapped your identity up in them, then it can be devastating. It's still a crushing blow, regardless, but total devastation can ensue if that is the person you identify yourself most strongly with. All of a sudden, who you are is gone. And I know there's such a thing as trust, blah, blah, blah, but really, my experience is that anybody can do this. I know there are some people who aren't of the character to do this kind of thing...I know that, because I am that sort of person. But sometimes, it is just really hard to tell who is and who isn't, and to identify characteristics that would let you know that person is the kind of person who would betray you. And people like that often know how to find gullible people and prey on them.

@Brian Kresge, I may have already said this, but I was thinking about the Christianity thing, and the thing with me about it being so personal may just be a point that I have come to. There are probably other Christians who pursue it as a community thing, but it is highly personal for me.

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@Anna,

More than I love coding, I love G-d and being a Jew. It's sort of a variation of the "all I have to do is stay black and die", as identity by default, since there's no elective aspect of being a Jew aside from how religious one is. Since Christianity seems like a highly elective religion, both embracing it individually and participating within a community would all seem like it would be highly personal.

I recently went back and reread "God in Search of Man" by Rabbi Abraham Heschel, one of the last great rabbinical luminaries to emerge from non-Orthodox Judaism in the past century. In a nutshell, faith that loses touch with its human relevance is false, if it doesn't tend to the issues of the day adequately, it's worthless. In the meantime, what faith is, G-d trying to communicate with us, gets lost. And we see it from Muslims flying planes into buildings to Christians showing up with despicable protests at military funerals, that the majority of organized faith has been coopted into drowning out communication with the divine, and more about promoting agendas that pay only lip service to improving the human condition. Hence the aggregate effect of these faiths is unhelpful in the lives of humankind.

I guess what I'm being circumspect in saying is that there's a tinge of shame associated with identity by way of religious faith because we innately sense, as humans, that most communal exercises of faith are bereft of their avowed purpose. For us, as uber-rational coding beings, the Holy Spirit is not a valid return type on a function. Where are we to go if we desire to infuse a higher purpose into our lives beyond what is visceral?

In reflection on what you've said, I think that the personal sort of faith is the most potent, because it assures you there is some kind of communion with something bigger. If you take on the communal definition -- especially with all its baggage, it becomes a very delicate matter, given the state of religious institution, of ensuring your identity isn't intruded upon.

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@Brian Kresge,

Although I love Jews...I have dated men who were Jewish and have some friends who are as well, I will admit to being ignorant and knowing very little beyond what I know from my friends, guys I have dated, the rare visit to the Jewish temple, and books and television shows (which I'm sure is not completely accurate). So anything I say about Judaism or anything related to it, please excuse my ignorance and don't take offense.

But...addressing what you said about not having an elective aspect of it. The thing I was going to ask is...I know there are Jews who embrace Judaism as a religion, but also, as I understand it, there is the designation of being a Jew by race, correct? This is what really confused me about the holocaust. Because before I studied it, I really thought that Judaism was only a religion, and so with it being religion, I believed it had the elective aspect. And so, before I was told it was also a race, I never understood the idea of genetically wiping people out for something that was a choice. That is pointless. Because, if it were a choice, then it would be impossible to wipe it out. If you did wipe out all of the people currently choosing that particular thing, then later, others could choose the same, so it didn't really make sense to me from a genetic standpoint. Further, it would not even make sense to wipe people out based on a choice, because they could always just choose something else, right?

Anyway...I do fully understand the concept of religion as a choice and Christianity as a choice, but in all honesty, I feel Christianity so ingrained in me, that I really could never imagine being able to "not choose" it. I know there are people who have been involved with it and later chose not to, chose to be atheistic or agnostic, but I can't help but think that they were never truly Christians or in that deep at all. I wasn't born a Christian, so to that end, I did at one time have a choice, I guess, but I was raised a Christian and have been one all of my life. I would honestly have an easier time changing my hair or eye color than changing the fact that I am a Christian. It has become, or seemingly has become very innate by this point.

(and actually I do change eye color very frequently. :-))

One thing that I have talked about earlier, maybe in a comment to this particular post, is contradiction in characteristics. One thing I am is...I am a Christian. That I will not deny. But also, some would definitely argue that I am pretty smart. I'm not going to come right out and say I am a genius (without the fact that I do that jokingly sometimes), but there have been people who have called me that. And in fact, I was being modest when I said some think I am smart...a lot of people do. But, one thing that really irks me is that some people think that is in contradiction with being a Christian. There are some people who know me as a Christian and decide right off, just by knowing that one thing about me, without getting to know me at all in any other way, that I am stupid. That really irritates me. I have said before that there are some guys who think I am hot and that hot girls can't be smart, and I would much rather a guy think I am stupid for being hot than for being a Christian. And if I have to be stupid to get dates, I don't mind that, but I am not happy with people thinking I am stupid just because I am a Christian. I won't go on about this, but I have known some Biblical Scholars who were some of the smartest and brightest men I have ever known. And I would say women, but I don't really know too many women Biblical Scholars.

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Can I just say that I am really enjoying this discussion. I am LDS (Mormon) and so often on the web, I find discussion about religion, especially about Mormons (in my experience), to be full of misconceptions and sometimes even hostility. @Anna, I totally understand how you feel about people thinking you are dumb when they find out you are Christian. I am often afraid to tell people I am Mormon because there are so many incorrect popular beliefs about Mormonism (such as we don't believe in Jesus and still practice polygamy). So, thank you for being willing to open up about this, because I think it is important to understand how other people see themselves, and then to respect them for that.

Oh, and one of the best sunday school teachers I have ever had was a Harvard professor and a woman. AND, my wife is hot and Christian and has a masters degree in quantum optics (physics). :)

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@Anna,

Things have changed so much over the years for the Jewish people that it's really difficult to say for sure, "genetic vs. choice." Nazi Germany made it a race, in part made easier by the fact that they were (what small miracles) dealing with primarily Ashkenazi Jews, who had an isolated gene pool with what we've all identified as typical Semetic traits. You'd look at me and by that same standard be able to say, "oh yeah, he's a Jew." Had the Nazis expanded into the Levant, it may have been a different story. Along the Silk Road and in Ethiopia, you find these pockets of Jews that have a wide variation of genetic differences, even if science has found a variance that may or may not be unique to Jews. So it is and isn't a race, but it's always been relatively easy to isolate and subjugate on the basis of various characteristics.

It's funny, in what you say, I realize, too, that there's a different stigma associated with being a religious Jew and being a religious Christian. Neither my wife nor I are assumed to be stupid out of the box (quite the contrary, we enjoy the opposite expectation), but say religious Christian, my mind summons images of little old ladies putting crosses in needlepoint on their pillows and singing really anachronistic hymns, exorcising demons and telling schools they should teach intelligent design.

It actually reminds me when I went to see Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" out of curiosity. This little old couple in front of my passed a handkerchief back and forth and said, "it's so beautiful" as Jim Caveziel had the skin whipped right off of him. I mean, I was moved by the depiction of suffering in that film, but out of that context, the spectacle of suffering evoking that reaction was really just incredibly odd, and I said to myself, "I will never understand these people!" And there it is, rational folks with a belief in the Divine suffer the inelegant dichotomies presented by a large swath of really dumb people.

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@Tim.,

You know, I'm guilty of harboring negative impressions of Mormons. On the other hand, over the years in the military, Mormons, having no clergy in the sense required for chaplains, had absolutely no representation in uniform to stand up for them on matters of observance or faith. I knew their pain, as the dearth of rabbis in uniform left us often in the same position.

I know my fundamental beef with LDS isn't misconceptions about polygamy or how the church peddled influence in the California vote on gay marriage, but it's how the Church has gone out of its way to whitewash the settlement of Deseret, er. Utah, and its own murky relationship with African-Americans, who G-d told your church Presidents were cursed and subhuman until His mind changed in 1978. It also ignores the fun anyone could have with Lehi leaving Jerusalem and the concept that Native Americans were wayward Hebrews and that Joseph Smith found the only historical record in existence of this thing on a hill in Upstate New York.

I note in my area, Latter Day Saints flood the airwaves with a lot of neat messages about family values and such, but seldom do they expose the meat of what they believe to the general public perhaps in an attempt to pass themselves off of as mainstream, normative Christians. I don't know why a group wouldn't lead right off with that the Native Americans were Jews and Jesus came to visit them after he was crucified.

So not all criticism or hostility about religious groups is rooted in ignorance or misunderstanding. When your Church decided to posthumously baptize victims of the Holocaust, the consequence is that a lot of Jews, including myself, developed an informed hostility toward your faith group that goes beyond plural marriage. And Salt Lake City, where Mormons really do run the show, has a mortifying child poverty rate beyond what you would expect.

What makes it so hard, sadly, is that I've never met a Mormon that wasn't a genuinely nice person, so I do still try to accord people courtesy on their individual merits. But still, it's merely a surface-level equivalence between misconceptions of "Christian, Non-Denominational" and "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".

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@Tim,

I know next to nothing about Mormonism, so I can't speak authoritatively on any of it. By the way, very cool about your wife. I can't bost a masters degree in quantum optics (physics), but it is a subject I find interesting, and was in a bookstore one day, and picked up a book on it and just started reading it right there.

The only comments that I can make that relate includes that I have known maybe two guys pesonally who were Mormon, and they were very, very, very nice guys. The other comment...about polygamy...the guy who was a mormon also told me that they didn't observe that anymore, so I didn't question that, but I guess that the whole reputation is tarnished when there are groups that do certain things like that...and I am not excluding Christians in this. I hate it when other Christians give the rest of us a bad reputation. It's kind of like the Catholic church and the trouble it has had with some of their grown men preferring little boys and such. I have known some AWESOME Catholics, and have dated some, but I know that there is a stigma there somewhat as far as that goes. So I guess being seen as stupid isn't the worst thing, but it's there. But back on the subject of polygamy, I really wouldn't mind this situation of "marriage" to more than one woman as long as every woman wasn't expected to fulfill all of the normal marriage needs. I would not want to be with a man, for example, physically who was with other women physically during the same time period. Sorry -- not my thing. But personally, as long as I didn't have to do that, I would not mind so much having a husband who had 5 other wives, and one or more of the other wives could take care of that. Then I wouldn't have to! He could have a wife to service each of his needs. One could do the housework, one could do the marital duties, one could go to work and make money for the household, one could raise the children that came out of any union, one could do the yard work, etc. That would be great, then I wouldn't have to do all of that crap. As it is now, I have to do all of the crap by myself, if I am alone, and if I date, I have to do all of my crap and all of his crap. That would be like a vacation compared to what I have to do now.

And if I got to choose, I would choose either going to work, or taking care of the children. Yard work woudln't be that bad. The housework...I could do it, but there would probably be someone else there better than me at that. I could do the cooking. :-) Or I could be the one to pay the bills and/or make sure the bills got paid. The marital duties thing...I could not do, especially if more than one of us was taking care of that, because that is just against my beliefs.

@Brian Kresge,

Thanks for the breakdown. I have read some Biblical texts, but am far from a scholar. I am sure I have read something in the Biblical texts about how the Jews originally came to be, but I don't remember much of it.

In a way, Christianity is somewhat like that, or could become somewhat like that. We really are only supposed to marry our own, so after awhile, the gene pool would get affected, I would think.

I guess the thing that is worse about that than the stupidity stigma is that it severely limits my dating pool. :-)

Oh, and this may give you even more of a beef with my particular brand of Christianity, but I am Southern Baptist, by the way. I don't really distinguish that often, it doesn't really matter so much to me, and like I have said, it is highly personal, but even as people have ideas about Christians, they have even more about Southern Baptists. :-)

You are right about the stigma...or lack of stigma...with Jews. Many Jews are assumed to be very smart and/or very rich. All of the Jews I have known have been very smart and maybe not necessarily rich, but if not, they went into very high profile careers. And you really don't hear too much of "some poor Jew".

I do love the Jewish community and the community spin that is put into it with the temples we have in town. It's like I have said, I just so know relatively little about Judaism itself. The Holocaust was definitely not anything I was in favor of.

I was told by my ex, by the way, that I have "a Jewish nose", and that I could pass as a Jew. He was one of the Jewish ones. But he also wanted me to dye my hair blonde, and that ticked me off. I just have something against dying my hair and against someone I am dating telling me to dye my hair. I like my hair color as it is. Like I've said, I could change it much easier than I could change being a Christian, but I don't like to. My eye color...that's a different story. I love changing it.

The Passion of the Christ...that definitely affected me in a different emotional way that what you described. I think many different people had a range of different emotional responses to that movie. One of my favorite parts of the whole movie was the snake. But I may be getting it mixed up now with some other movie.

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@Brian Kresge,

I can't really defend the decisions made by my church's leaders, or why they choose certain policies over others. I try to be decent towards others and I suspect those Mormons you've met try to do the same. I admit, it is hard to hear those criticisms of my chosen faith. It is easy to construe those criticisms as personal attacks, even though I know they are not. I also don't want people to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to understanding why I value my religion so much. I think this is why I was resonating with this conversation, because I saw you and @Anna being so respectful to each other--something that I think Mormons miss out on in the public space to a certain extent, because of these criticisms and not based on individual merits.

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Wow,
this is going way over my head. Funny though that I post my first comment here, and being German it struck me kinda odd that the next thing is a discussion about Jews, Mormonism, Nazi Germany and so on. Just a coincidence, probably, still feeling strange.

@Anna
I just wanted to thank you for the persanal insight. What you describe is one facet of what can happen. So no, youve not misunderstood me, youve just picked out a scenario of how versatile situations of deep trust can be. I really feel you, because I had - well, not the same story, but something comparable happen to me where I ended up devastated and in a certain way very lost. Its been almost a year now, and I don't think I've really gotten over it. It still affects my life. My distrust has grown, but my self-esteem has, too. You learn and evolve, and the most important lesson of this is (*tadaaa!*): The next time you are in a similar situation, DON'T apply the same behaviour you always did in the past, instead, use what youve learned. And its gonna feel just right.

My favorite definition of a term from a dictionary is this: Madness, Insanity is defined by keeping to do the same thing over and over again while expecting something different to be the outcome.

Theres a lot of people fearing to be alone when they change. But thats never true. When your personality emerges, you have to let go of people you once loved, but you instanteneously enter a new circle of friends that fits you much better.

So much for that, but back to the topic. I like lists, so I stick to hte short version. The integral parts of my identity are:

- DJ/Techhouse Producer
- Webdesigner (thats how I got here :))
- Martial Artist
- Dreamer (or even Striver)

@all
Whats yours?

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@Tim,

Speaking of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, some people regard Christians as highly judgmental and think that we hate all gays and people who aren't Christian. In reality, in my life, the people I have encountered who were the most judgmental were non-Christians...atheists and agnostics. We don't hate people who aren't Christian, we just wish they would quit persecuting us and calling us stupid without knowing us. I am sure there are Christians who are stupid, but there are probably non-Christians who are stupid as well. And finally, we don't 'hate' gays. I have had many gay friends. I myself have entertained the idea of being gay. I would have to hate myself. I ultimately chose to be straight, but I have fully examined and analyzed the decision, and in the end decided to be straight. There are times when I wonder if I made the right choice, but I made it and there ain't no turning back now. Furthermore, we don't base hatred or disapproval on one sin or a group of sins. We would have to hate ourselves and pretty much everyone else if we did this, because no one has remained completely sinless and perfect. And in fact, we are not supposed to hate anyone, but some people sure do make it pretty difficult not to.

I know what the criticisms of my faith are...for the most part. And I can throw them right in someone's face before they have a chance to bring them up, and I can address them and explain why they are incorrect, if they are incorrect. There are some things about my faith that I can not explain. Like I admit, I am not a Biblical scholar or even a scholar of my faith.

Because it came up earlier, I'm going to address this: I know next to nothing about the Muslims. I don't hate them as people. And is if I found a Muslim, and he or she was able to explain to me that it was NOT a part of their religion that they were supposed to kill people not associated with their religion, then I would be all for embracing what they had to say, and respecting their religion and all of that. The message of Christianity is way different than that...we don't encourage our people to kill people who aren't Christians. We are just trying to live in a society made up of Christians and non-Christians alike.

@Cyriax,

I don't hate or dislike Germans, I just don't like what some of them did to the Jews. But I don't associate that with all Germans. Also, I am aware of the fact that there were some of them who were forced and/or coerced into doing that, and I do have a level of sympathy for them, as well, because I myself have been forced and/or coerced into doing things I did not want to do.

I've had German friends, and there was a very cute exchange boy in high school who was also very nice, and I would've gone out with him had he suggested such.

I'm sorry you had to go through what you did, being that I know where you are coming from. My former best friend and I were doing so much, and then, all of a sudden, I had nothing to do and was sitting at home. Of course, I remedied the situation very quickly and made myself busy and got things to do, but still...it's hard getting used to spending time with a certain person and then not. And it's hard also when it comes out of the blue as opposed to if I had seen it coming. But you are right...I live and learn. :-)

My list would be hard, because there are so many things that feel dear to me. It's almost easier to list the things I HAVEN'T done. I do, by the way, identify myself strongly with things I do, so my list will be about things I have done. Also, some of them are things I have done in the past, but some things like that, you never lose. Here goes:

Christian
former lifeguard
former law school student
someone who speaks french fluently and enjoys speaking french.
law school dropout.
former art and print model
former actress
someone who still loves to act (hobby) but doesn't do it as a job anymore
coder/ColdFusionist :-)
problem solver
database developer
someone who loves to sing, and who's song has been on a radio playlist
a straight girl who loves boobs

there are so many more. That last one has thrown my brain out of focus, though, so there ya go.

Back to work! :-)

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Ben, I am late to the party as usual, as I missed this when you first posted. I can completely relate to your post, and there are times where events have ebbed and flowed in my life that have created that same exact thing. It's a general discomfort that is really hard to put an precise finger on. You have stated it very well, and I hope that either the ebb or flow of events around you rights your ship asap.

As to the commenters, I have enjoyed this comment thread tremendously. With all the quick, snarky, and anonymous jabs on the internet these days, as opposed to really listening and talking, it is refreshing to read a thought provoking discussion between people with such obviously different stations in life.

@dshuck

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It occurred to me as I was thinking about my own identity that my list is made up mostly of things I have done. And I do identify strongly with things I have done and currently do, especially as they have shaped me into the person I am today, but I also acknowledge that a huge part of a person's identity is their personality characteristics and how they can be described. As for me, even as I look over my list of things I have done or groups I identify strongly with, I realize that one personality characteristic that describes me as good as, if not any other, is my daring, love of adventure, and willingness to take risks. I hope, as a ColdFusion programmer, that translates into someone who writes code and tests code that is sometimes thought of as risky, but which might provide a breakthrough to a problem we are trying to solve, instead of being thought of a high-risk, dangerous programmer who is going to tax your servers and needs to be gotten rid of. :-D

Anyway, just about everything I do or have done has involved my affinity I have for taking risks and being a risk-taker. The job I have now is an awesome one, and a really good step in my career. I have more leadership responsibilities in my current role, was asked to train people (although I see it as being allowed to train people on ColdFusion, because it is something I enjoy), and of course, it is more money than I was making. However, when I interviewed for the job, I didn't even know if I wanted it. At the time, I had just gotten this other job that I really loved, with a company I loved. It was a nice, safe job...which paid less, but they had a retirement plan. And I could've gotten set up in the retirement plan, and probably could have been set forever...I probably could have worked there until retirement, and then been able to take off and retire when I got old enough. But I decided to take the risk for the current job, and I got it and decided to make the move. The salary increase along was significant.

Anyway, the point being taking risks, everything I do, pretty much, involves taking risks and living life to the fullest...all of that stuff. For the most part, I like to leave no stone unturned. If I get a wild hair to do something, I usually just go ahead and do it instead of letting anything hold me back. I know sometimes funds are limited and I simply don't have the money to do certain things, but I try to have my hand in just about everything I ever want to do. There are a lot of things people want to do or think it would be cool to do, but a lot of people also would have inhibitions about doing some of those things. I don't really. As foolhardy as it may be. And my thing, too, is this: I don't do drugs, I don't drink, I don't smoke. My high is life. I am an adrenaline junkie, for sure. I love to do thrill-seeking kinds of things. (an example of this would be, I jumped into a body of water from a 40-foot -- at least -- cliff. I haven't gone sky-diving or bungee jumping yet, but I plan on it). I'm kind of addicted to it, somewhat...

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