We spend an inordinate amount of our mental and emotional bandwidth working to align ourselves with our stated identities. Society repeatedly asks us to make declarative “I am” statements on surveys, medical intake forms, or social media profiles.
In doing so, we risk becoming an identity that is as much shaped by others as ourselves. We become incomplete “I am” statements that do not fully capture the whole of who we are.
Author and speaker Glennon Doyle discusses the notion of identity and her journey away from pinning herself to specific identities in her most recent book. Many of her points resonate, but to abandon all of our identities because we fear it might trap us? This mindset runs counter to Proctor’s educational model where we champion the idea of “Who Could You Become?” The premise that when we attach ourselves to an identity, we feel committed to it and are, therefore, unable to grow it simply does not hold up at Proctor.
Four years ago, the Class of 2021 embarked on Wilderness Orientation and began their Proctor journey. The seniors who graduated this past weekend are not the same individuals who arrived on campus in the fall of 2017. Their paths have been nonlinear, as every high school experience should be.
There have been bumps and twists and turns, with the occasional washed out trail and mudslide that has really tested their resilience. They have pursued passions, tried new sports, studied off-campus, taken new classes, pivoted, and pivoted again.
Teenagers are designed to change. We all are designed to change. And Proctor allows that evolution to take place without locking students into an identity that was never meant to be permanent.
Who we are today is not who we will be forever, regardless of our age. But the core of who we are, the identity shaped by our adventures, the relationships we have had the privilege of cultivating, the sense of place that is created when living and learning at a place like Proctor — that core never goes away. It seems there is a fine line between feeling trapped by an identity and acknowledging the experiences that make us.
On Saturday, May 29, the Class of 2021 walked across the stage at Proctor’s 173rd Commencement. This group of incredibly talented, resilient students are, understandably, eager to move on from Proctor and begin the next chapter of their lives.
Just as their identities have evolved over the past four years, their future will afford even more opportunities for growth. But in all of their excitement about “what’s next,” we also know there will always be a part of them that embraces the “I am” statement that ends with “a Proctor graduate.”