HEALTHY IDENTITY

I was given the burden of being a ginger. Pale skin, freckles, and red hair. For a very, very long time, I did whatever I could to be the total opposite of how I saw myself. My hair has been dyed every color you can think of, usually ending in a dark brown. I spent money trying to be tan, which of course, was to no avail. Every hour spent in the sun just turned me a new shade of burnt. I even used to dye my eyebrows and wear dark black eyeliner.

The older I get, the more I have begun to appreciate who I am, and why I am that way. My particular color scheme comes from my mom's side of the family, which is very strongly Irish. They are all very proud of this heritage, and I tried to be, however, I didn't really grasp it until recently.

It took me allowing myself to see the beauty in my background. There was always a curiousity toward European cultures, but a strong disconnect as well. I have never been there, and there are a few generations between me and actual Ireland-born ancestors. Lately, I have been looking more into the countries that I have connections to down the line, and this conscious digging has given me a new appreciation for where I come from.

I believe it is important for everyone to have a sense of where they come from, and why it matters. I listened to one woman's account about digging herself out of depression by connecting with her roots. She spoke about how having no identity to connect with caused her to have nothing to ground herself to. Another friend of mine recently visited Scotland, and hearing his story of how he felt being in the land that his family came from was so inspiring.

My family offered me a wide variety of backgrounds, including Irish, Bulgarian, and Native American. Instead of seeing myself as an unidentifiable blob, I began taking ownership of what I am. This has given me a new confidence, and a new identity to accept and learn more about. This may seem arbitrary to some, but it was apparently something I needed in my own life.

Besides finding more pride in my past, I also have stopped dying my hair, which is not only cheaper, but it is much more healthy for my head. Even though I was using pretty natural dyes, I know it was still putting my hair through stress that it didn't need. I also don't try to tan. Accepting my paleness I know will slow the aging process later in life, and I feel more like 'me'. I must say though, I am also a lot less scared of the sun than I used to be, but that's another story.

So my encouragement to you, the reader, is to really take hold of whatever or whoever you are. Caring about where you come from and where you are going is just as important as anything else in living a happy, healthy life.

Hannah Markiewicz