Thoughts from the Combine: Organization and Defining Yourself

Today as I drove around and around the field, I planned a project. A big collaborative project. I grew more and more excited, scribbling ideas into my little notebook.


“But how could I possibly do that?” I thought to myself. “I’m terrible at organization.”

“Wait.” The notebook was set aside for the moment as I tried to puzzle out this new problem. “Am I organized?”

There was a sudden swift and semi-brutal cognitive dissonance in my mind.

I’ve always partially defined myself by how unorganized I am. I’m the kind of person who’s always leaving the house three minutes late because I couldn’t find my shoes. I think of organized people as the types who have a planner and stick to it, and who have their lives together, neither of which I do.

However, when I’m lying in bed pondering injustices of the world or feelings for boys or whatever, I think in an extremely organized outline format. I summarize first, and then list the main points, and then the sub-points, like I’m writing a research paper or giving a speech.

I love the organization of composing speeches, and blog posts, and term papers.  I love directing plays and organizing who goes where at which time and says what. When I was a part of the ROV club I was in my element as the “mom” of the group, keeping everything organized.

So am I or am I not?

As a teen, I defined myself as completely unorganized. Defining myself was very important to me, partially, and somewhat ironically, because I wanted to organize people into categories and see where I fit. I imagined that the person I was when I emerged from my teens was the person I’d always be.

This has proved false. For instance, I defined myself as bad at math, when in reality I’m just slow at math. Even so, I still find myself making decisions based on somewhat outdated definitions I created for myself.

Like, “oh, you can’t do that project, Emily! You’re not organized!”

When I got home, I said, “Mom, can I ask you an odd question? It’s  not a trick question. Just answer honestly.”


“Am I organized?”

“When you choose to be.”

Oh. Okay. I’m organized when I choose to be. Cognitive dissonance is over. Reason and order is restored to my mind.

Have you ever defined yourself a certain way only to find those definitions changing with age?

5 responses to “Thoughts from the Combine: Organization and Defining Yourself

  1. I think perhaps this is the time you’re just starting to find this out, but, that’s what happens, Emily. That’s how most people grow up, or realise that they’re growing up, eventually, whatever their age.

    You can be mature for your age, or precocious, or old before your time if you’ve had to go through things few others your age have experienced (I lost my mother at 16, had a nervous breakdown at 19, and became a full-time wheelchair user at 26), but none of those necessarily dictate that you’re fully grown-up yet. It takes work, and learning, and a heck of a long time.

    The realisation that you have changed and will continue to change throughout your life? That’s a big part of it.

    Most teenagers are anxious or obsessive about figuring out where they fit, finding labels to live by even if that label is “outside the box”. Identity crises are a natural part of adolescent psychology.

    It’s when you start to truly grow up that you learn the boxes and labels don’t necessarily matter that much; that they won’t always be the same, and neither will you. Circumstances can alter how you identify yourself to others – like coming out, for example, when there are still states that can fire one for being LGB+ or transgender, so you might be “out” among your friends and family but not in the workplace, for an example – and how you feel in yourself, and they will continue to do so, but nobody truly fits every bit of themselves into a set of individual boxes. It’s just not the way we’re made. You can decide that labels and boxes don’t matter to you, and really they don’t, but plenty of society still believes otherwise. What matters most is growing comfortable with yourself and your life. Not stressing about who and what you are, but “living the questions”, knowing you may never know every answer out there, and accepting that that’s okay.

    Best of luck! 🙂


  2. Yes, I know what you mean, Amy. I’ve always been considered a shy and introverted person, and I’ve always thought so too. Now I find myself doing things in my 40s that I never would’ve DREAMED of doing in my teens, 20s, or even 30s… My teenage nieces say, “I’d never dare to do that!” And I think, “I can’t believe this doesn’t bother me — I remember feeling just like they do!” Anyway, it seems like age has a way of getting you used to yourself and to other people, too.


  3. Oops, I mean EMILY! Sorry, forgot where I was 🙂 Think that has to do with age, too?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachael Sloan

    I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately. I have a big fear of failure, so I think sometimes if I am afraid I will fail at something, I tell myself (and possibly others) beforehand that I am not good at it to make myself feel better if I fail at it. But I have been realizing that this is harmful to me, because I am not truly seeing my abilities. Maybe I am not good at that, but maybe I can try. I feel like I am not a good driver, for example, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be better at it and it isn’t an excuse for me to drive badly.
    I don’t know if that makes any sense…but I do understand what you are saying! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe you like to organize thoughts and events but not spaces.

    Liked by 1 person

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