Southern State

“Well, you’re sleeping in that southern state where the bars are filled with people you can’t hate.
But try as you try and you still can’t relate to them.
You drink that whiskey down as they ask you
Are you who you say you are?
The fact that we can’t tell makes us like you even more.”

From “Southern State” by Bright Eyes.

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I remember that we had Religious Education on my first day at secondary school.  We were tasked with writing a short essay on the question, “Who Am I?”  I remember thinking it was an odd question, but I wrote down some thoughts about identity and self expression.  I loved doodling and the drawing which accompanied it was probably more telling of my worldview back then.  I recall it involving lots of people walking around – punks, casuals, trendies or old folks all with think bubbles asking “Who Am I?”  I guess that I linked identity largely with image or classification back then.

I remember being appalled when I read some literature accompanying an application form for graduate recruitment back in my student days which suggested that one could express their individuality through choice of silk tie, belt buckle and cuff-links.  I wanted to stand out more than I wanted to fit in.  From the photo above, maybe I’ve become that person…I do love the cuff-links my wife bought me for Christmas though…

Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, that question “Who Am I?” causes us all so many problems. 

After hearing of my friend, Craig B’s, answer in an interview in the Herald, I put the following question to the little small group collective who meet in our home: – “What five adjectives would you use to describe yourself?”

What would you say?

I came up with:

1) Father – I guess I see this as one of the most important and precious roles and tasks I have.  Maybe a better adjective would have been “parent” as I couldn’t imagine this role without the love and support and shared vision of my wife…Funny to think there was a time when the thought of being a Dad would scare me beyond belief…

2)  Gentle – I am gentle by nature and gently spoken.  Sometimes I think I’m perceived as weak in this way, as I find it hard to project my voice in certain environments or to engage and I have always been tall and thin.  I guess I’m just not “laddish” or “bloke-ish” particularly.

3)  Surveyor – whilst this is my job description, I don’t really define myself by this nor by my position in the firm I belong to.  Yet, I spend so much of my waking life (day time and many evenings) devoted to my work.  As I get older sometimes I wonder if I should be more engaged with this in trying to influence those around me?  I do try that in my own way – but I still sometimes wonder if I should admit that baldness is under everybodies’ hair, shave my head and try to fit into the corporate mold to a greater extent.  Again that just boils down to image, but it does affect how we think about ourselves…  I hope I am still growing into the person I am meant to be. 

4) Indie – I guess I have always been drawn to things that are counter-cultural.  Music, faith, films, etc.  Skateboarding changed my life and all the things that came from that culture – when combined with a free-thinking mind and a faith that is more real to me than anything – have made me into who I am today – contradictions, warts and all.  Yes, I know I should have put “interdependent” down as an adjective to demonstrate that I understand the need for church community, but, truth be told, I still love “indie”…Indie, indie, indie…

5) Anchored – I guess, I feel pretty secure in life most of the time.  I know where my hope comes from.  That’s not to say that I don’t get stressed or low, but above and beyond that I know God is God.

On reflection, I didn’t come up with a bunch of words that I once would have used.  Do certain words have meaning for a certain season and then develop us for something else?

My friend’s answers in the Herald were:

1)  Grumpy

2)  Grumpy

3) Grumpy

4) Grumpy

5) Ginger

I’d probably have given him the benefit of the doubt and supplemented one of them with “Genius!”

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1 Response to “Southern State”


  1. 1 brunettekoala February 12, 2009 at 12:54 am

    ooooh. That’s an interesting question but difficult to answer!


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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