Is this going to be on the test?

Posted in blog post on August 6th, 2010 by Merrill Markoe
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Being a writer sometimes leads  to unexpected situations.  The one that happened today involved a text book requesting permission to reprint a piece that I wrote ten years ago.

This  is not the first time.  I am told that I have pieces in a few different English text books, though I have never actually seen one of them.   Maybe its for the best. When I am writing a piece, usually I am trying to be funny and also trying to figure out who these people are  that will or will not be entertained by reading it.  But I can assure you that at no point do I ever  envision put-upon pissed-off eighth graders rolling their eyes when they hear they are being forced to read my piece for homework, then raising their hands to grudgingly to ask if it will be on the test.

Though it is a pretty funny thought, I will admit.

Anyway…below is a piece I wrote in 2001.  I was asked to address the topic of internet quizzes, which were already ubiquitous though not nearly as much as now. You cant look even briefly at a Facebook page without seeing three or four of them. That there is no mention of Facebook and also not a word about  Justin Bieber makes the piece a little dated.  But the reason I am reprinting it here is because of the test questions at the end. They are written by the text book that is printing the piece.  Imagining a class answering those questions just strikes me as really funny.  Really really really really funny.

If you don’t want to read the piece….just skip ahead to the questions at the end. If you want to take the test, I will give you a grade.

“WHO AM I?

Having spent a fair amount of time and money in therapy debating my every move with a licensed and theoretically caring professional, I was under the impression that I had a pretty good idea of what I was all about.  At least until I started taking personality quizzes on the Internet. As any habitual reader of cheesy women’s magazines will tell you, this quiz taking business can be both time consuming and pointless in terms of gaining meaningful advice.  But it can also be as utterly seductive as the horoscope pages.  For about a minute and a half, the quiz glistens like a beacon of potential insight before you, offering answers to all the important questions in life.  Five minutes later, awash in self loathing, you can’t even remember what it said or why you ever bought that magazine.

As it turns out, the internet is so full of this kind of self improvement quiz that it could be argued that the only thing that separates the Net from an average issue of Cosmo is that Cosmo offers only one quiz at a time.  Also the Internet has fewer ads for panty liners.

I came to know of this  one day when, quite by accident, I encountered a quiz at a handy site called QuizBox.com that promised to tell me how “attractive” I was.  I guess I needed a little reassurance that day (with emphasis on the word little, because since the quiz couldn’t see me, how reassuring could it be?) Still, I willingly submitted to seemingly irrelevant questions like “Which city would you like to visit?” (I chose Paris over Tokyo because in the montage that was running in my imagination, I thought I looked more attractive in Paris). I also selected a peck over a big kiss on the first date as my first date kissing style because a rash of unappealing recent first dates was still fresh in my mind. This quiz didn’t specify whether the guy I was on this first date with had any sex appeal.

After my scores were tallied, the quiz passed judgment.  It said, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to improve my personality. I also needed to be more optimistic and smile more. I could be attractive if I would just try harder, it sighed, sounding a lot like my mother. It didn’t think I was trying hard enough.

So there I was, alone in my house and suddenly a lot less attractive than I had been a few minutes earlier.  But I wasn’t going to take this lying down. To recoup my losses, like a woman feverishly playing the slot machines, I continued to take more quizzes.

Instantly I was able to wrest myself from the jaws of low self esteem via the “What kind of personality do you have?” quiz.  This time, when asked to answer the question “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?” I chose the option “Become a beauty queen.” Okay, yes, I know it’s a little shallow. But my health was already pretty good, and being clever was obviously getting me nowhere. Much to my delight, the quiz was favorably impressed. “People with your kind of  character are few and far between” it informed me, “Everybody likes to be around people with your personality.”

Feeling a little more confident now, I went on taking more quizzes.  Which is how I came to find out that every single thing I did defined my personality.

There was The Egg Test that revealed that because I eat fried eggs white part first, I am “logical, smart and inventive…though sometimes too cold and selfish.”  That I only eat egg whites, period, didn’t seem to factor in one way or another.

Next by picking toilet stall No. 2 out of a drawing of three empty stalls (“The Toilet Test”) I learned I was “an efficient person” yet also “A romantic person” who can be “too hasty making decisions in love.”  I guess it serves me right for being so cavalier about my toilet stall selections.

On “The Eating Test” I made the mistake of picking eggs and toast over cereal for breakfast while also admitting to sometimes skipping lunch entirely because of worry about my weight  Now I had inadvertently show myself to be “jealous of people who are smarter and better looking”. A harsh evaluation, I felt, for someone with “my kind of character.”

This led me to “The Ultimate Personality Test” Three cups of coffee later (and still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon,) I was saddened to learn that I was a “Secret agent” who “Professionally likes to work in a cubicle and eat lunch at a desk.”

But my mood improved considerably once I clicked on the next test I could find and my choice of an abstract pattern from an assortment of designs offered me a complete reevaluation.  Now, thank heavens, I was “dynamic, active, extroverted.” And “willing to accept certain risks and to make a strong commitment in exchange for interesting and varied work.”

So which was it?  Was I a cubicle worker or a risk taker?  Hoping to get off this emotional roller coaster, I wandered over to TheSpark.com where yet another personality test branded me “an accountant. Reserved. Meticulous. Dependable.” And this despite the fact that on the very same age “The Sexy Test” said I was 75 percent sexier than the average quiz taker! Because this puzzling new image of “sexy accountant” didn’t provide me with anything except an idea for a horrible new sitcom,, I took a deep,, cleansing breath and dived in to the elaborate “How others see you” quiz, where I emerged “extroverted, agreeable,but neurotic and not very conscientious.”  I found this confusing because a quiz at a women’s financial site  insisted that I was “thorough, meticulous and calm” only a few minutes later.

By the end of the day, I also learned that my taste in room décor is “middle class” (“What Class are you?”) despite the fact that my”Plant personality” is “woodland natural.” My “Workout personality” is 40% inspirational, 30% spontaneous and 30% analytical (sailing, training for a triathlon and softball recommended)” And my religious beliefs are Unitarian Universalitst, neopagan and Malayan Buddhist.

Although the Ayurvedic Foundation’s site tells me that I have a Pitta constitution, meaning I am “hot, sharp, liquid and oily”, an insurance company’s Longevity Quiz says that I will live to be ninety five.

So there it is:  I am extroverted and reserved, passive and active, risk taking and afraid of change.  I am also calm, neurotic, meticulous, dependable and not very conscientious.  So what if my workout program of alternating the gym with swimming does not fit my personality?  Who cares if I belong to a religion I have never heard of?  All things considered, I have to say that it feels great to really get to know myself at last.

Merrill Markoe “Who Am I?” First published in ON: Time Digital Online Magazine. March 2001. Copyright 2001 by Merrill Markoe.

Considering Ideas

  1. Markoe claims that, with the help of a psychologist, she knew who she was until she began taking Internet quizzes.  Is the reader to take this comment seriously?  Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think the author was so interested in learning about herself through quizzes?  How does she feel about the results?
  3. Have you ever taken an online quiz? Did you learn anything about yourself? Did you agree or disagree with the results?

Considering Writing Strategies

  1. Do you feel that Markoe’s description of Internet quizzes is fair and accurate?  Why or why not?
  2. What analogy does Markoe make in paragraph five?  What effect does her comparison have on you?  What did you envision as you read the analogy?
  3. How do Markoe’s sarcastic remarks affect your understanding of the message she portrays?  Use specific examples from the essay to support your answer.

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO THE STUDENTS OF HUMANITIES 11:

Dear Folks:

I am very flattered that your teacher included my silly essay in the curriculum of your class.  I hope you guys enjoyed it.

But apparently part of the class work seems to be contacting me and asking me for advice on finding your identity.  The first dozen times this happened I made an earnest attempt to answer . And I am afraid that now I believe that everything I can think of to offer on the topic  is written somewhere in that initial bunch of replies.

Therefore I am inviting the rest of you to please  look in the comments for questions asked by others who have taken this class before you . If there is anything to be gotten from asking my advice on this topic, you will probably find it there.

In closing, let me say that it takes a while to really find your identity. You guys are at the age where it starts, but there are plenty of people in their thirties who are still asking  these same questions.  Some  parts of your identity are formed through experimentation, through trial and error.  Pursue your interests and your passions, then follow up by learning as much about them as you can.   The more you learn, the more complex and interesting a person you become.  Next thing you know, you have an identity. And by the way, you’re not stuck with it.  If it turns out you don’t like it, begin to take steps to change it. Don’t forget to turn yourself in to someone you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. Because after all, that is what you are going to be doing.

And with that, I am officially closed for questions on identity crisis for the time being.  (Except in the event of an earth shattering emergency) ( And fingers crossed that if  you are having one of those, you have someone you actually can meet with in person . ) Meanwhile, I wish you guys well. Sounds like an interesting class.

Merrill

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42 Responses to “Is this going to be on the test?”

  1. Mary V. says:

    Ooh, a chance to post my very favorite quiz. (I’m an overdoing, stubborn, jokester Lion)

    http://www.lynnlott.com/tryit/quiz.htm

    Lynn co-wrote some of the best parenting books out there. Series is called “Positive Discpline”. She even offers Skype-based therapy for thorny toddler twin issues. I was a big skeptic; ended up totally sold.

  2. Erin says:

    The reason I’m a fan of your work is because I was a nerdy eighth grader and decided to read the rest of the stories in my textbook that our teacher hadn’t assigned. There was a piece about your dogs, and I loved it. Serendipitously, the next week I was browsing through the bookstore when I saw “What the Dogs Have Taught Me” and snapped it up. And wouldn’t you know it, I loved that too, and every book after that. So, you actually made some money from your textbook thing.. cause I bought your stuff! Woooo.

    • Wow.
      Thank you for telling me that. I have never had any concrete evidence that the pieces appeared in actual text books, even though contracts were signed, because I guess I don’t know any one in the eighth grade. That story really made me happy. THANKS! (Now don’t ruin it by telling me about the other kids, sitting in the row behind you, who you heard muttering “I guess this is supposed to be funny but I think its STOOOOOOOOPID.”

  3. John says:

    I take exception to the question that begins “How do Markoe’s sarcastic remarks affect your understanding…” Sardonic certainly, even satirical, but sarcastic? I think the question’s author wouldn’t know wit if it bit him/her in the arse.

  4. andrea says:

    God, what I wouldn’t give to be hot, sharp, liquid and oily.

  5. Tina says:

    I wish “none of the above” would appear on every question on these quizzes. I often find the offered answers so impertinent to my life. For instance if the question were, “What is your idea of an enjoyable evening?” a. Go see a romantic movie, b. Hit a few balls at a batting cage, c. Make out with your lover in a quiet, remote location, or d. Volunteering at a soup kitchen serving dinners. I never, ever see my answer: “Waiting anxiously for the police to come to bust the meth lab in the house next door.” Never!

  6. Tina: I couldn’t agree more. Especially if you have been the one who tipped off the cops!

  7. Mitchell says:

    Dear Ms. Markoe,

    As a part of my humanities 11 school course, I’m writing to you because we are studying society’s moral shift and the identity crisis that so many people in today’s world experience. It appears many of us feel ungrounded, have no idea “who I am” and in general have failed to find true personal freedom. What do you feel has led to this phenomena of insecurity?

    Mitchell

    • Dear Mitchell:
      Before I answer, do you mind telling me something about the general age group of the people in your humanities class? Are you in college or high school?

      • Mitchell says:

        Hi Ms. Markoe,

        Sorry I took so long to reply. The age group of my class is 15-17years old and just a heads up there are around 25 students in my class.

        Mitchell

    • Dear Mitchell:
      I just realized that I got so snowed under writing to the other people in your class that I never got back to you…the guy who was first in line and started it all. That’s one of the problems with being ahead of the curve. Sometimes you don’t get lost in the rush and are denied the acknowledgment you deserve. Because now that I have answered so many questions about identity in a row,(see below) I am worried I might be repeating myself . In fact, I am starting to feel like I am losing my identity and am becoming just another cog in the wheel of Humanities 11.
      What is going to happen to these answers? Will they be printed out and traded at swap meets like baseball cards or whatever it is kids your age have that are much better looking and hipper than baseball cards? Or will they be posted on some Facebook page where hate filled commenters pick them apart for saying the same thing over and over?
      Whatever happens….thank you for writing. And thank your teacher for allowing me to help you with your homework.
      Merrill

  8. Larisa Dralle says:

    Hey great site and I enjoyed it!

  9. Evangeline Rose :) says:

    Dear Ms. Markoe!

    Hello, I am also a student from the Humanities 11 course!

    I am replying to you because I am studying the human “Identity Crisis” and “How People in our day find their own personal contentment in themselves.

    Many people under 25 in todays world, have the problem of an identity crisis. Questions may arise such as:
    “who am I?”
    “Which field of work would I like to work in?”
    “What do I need or want in order to be content?”

    Their are so many options of what we as a younger generation can become! Is it not such a tangled, complicated web of possibilities we may choose from!? Their are just so many options!

    Each individual human being has their own personal space. If you have not heard of this before, think about how you do not feel comfortable when a certain individual you are talking to has a tendancy to lean close in your face when speaking. In almost all situations, male or female will feel their body pull away! Why is this? This is your personal space! It is almost like an unseen veil or wall that surrounds a person! Only YOU can put down this wall with people you love and trust, people that you feel comfortable with!
    When an individual person trusts or loves another individual person, they alone can allow the other into their personal space. Yes, people can force their way into your personal space, but only YOU can allow them.

    This is one aspect your identity, who you are is what you will feel comfortable with when handling these kind of situations!

    How do you feel about this? What is your opinion?

    From,
    Evangeline Rose :)

    • Dear Rose:
      The things you are pondering have always been the issues facing human beings, back to the beginning of written and published thought. There is nothing wrong with guarding your personal space. It seems to be an instinct that comes with being an animal. My dogs do it with each other. Each of them knows instinctively when that line has been crossed and lets the others know, in no uncertain terms.
      And the rest of your identity comes about over time by keeping track of your feelings. Writing in a journal is one way to make this process very visible. I do know this: the more comfortable you become with yourself, the easier and more fun it is to be alive. And the more you accept yourself, the easier it is to get along with others and to surf through their shortcomings.
      I don’t have any idea if I answered the question you asked.

      • Evangeline Rose :) says:

        Hi Mrs. Markoe!

        Yes! this has been very insightful for me! Thank you!

        Evangeline Rose :)

  10. Joy Warren says:

    Dear Ms. Markoe,
    I read your article, “Who Am I?” as part of an assignment for my Humanities 11 class. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be all that interested and doubted that I would be able to relate to the article, but as I read, I became more and more intrigued.

    I have found myself in that very position, browsing through those online quizzes and I am familiar with that feeling. It is so hard to know exactly who you are. In life, there are friends, family, television shows, online quizzes, magazines and media, all telling you who you are and who you should be. They tell you how to look, how to act, and how to think and soon enough we try and become this “ideal” person… and in the process, we lose our true identity.

    We all get to that point in life when everyone is giving you different opinions and they often, just like your quiz results, contradict each other. That part of the article really spoke to me. With so many pieces of advice contradicting each other, who should we listen to? What advice should we take?

    What do you think is the main obstacle that gets in the way of people finding their true identity?

    ~Joy Warren

    • Dear Joy:
      Well, I want to begin by telling you the same thing I have told your other classmates: that I am not expert on identity finding. I’m not a psychologist. I am a humor writer.
      That said, I think the answer to your question ( “With so many pieces of advice contradicting each other, who should we listen to? What advice should we take?” ) is that you try out different paths and slowly but surely learn that some are a better more natural fit for you than others. As a rule, we all tend to play the cards we are dealt. And we are not all dealt the same cards. I admire people who dance in a ballet but when I tried it for myself, when I was a kid, I realized almost immediately that I didn’t have the passion, the stamina or the grace to make a go of it. There’s just not much call for clumsy ballerinas. On the other hand, I also realized that when I sat down to draw, I sometimes would get up two days later, after hours and hours of drawing, wondering where all the time had gone.
      The same is true of religions and philosophies. Some will make more sense in a deep personal way to you than others. Read. I’m a big believer in reading. Lots of things will be revealed to you if you sit down with the right books for a few hours. If you’re not sure how you feel about stuff, why not start keeping a journal? You don’t have to show them to anyone else.In fact, I think you shouldn’t. The writing doesn’t have to be great. WRite to yourself the way you talk to yourself when you are alone. Ask yourself the questions you are asking me, and see what your answers turn out to be. Interview yourself. Over time, you will notice that your answers begin to change. As a bonus, it will turn out to be interesting and sometimes pretty hilarious later on in life to sit down and spend a few minutes with your teenaged self via a journal. Its a way to remember things you would definitely forget otherwise. I have journals that go back to the second grade. I’m not sure why I keep them except that they’re so funny.
      And as for your last question: “What do you think is the main obstacle that gets in the way of people finding their true identity?” I would say that people who never figure out who they are tend to be people who believe they have all the answers and therefore never ask themselves any questions. I have relatives like that. People who stopped growing when they were in grade school. But the more experiences you have and the more you take in by reading and looking at the world, the more your identity will develop. So keep asking yourself questions and of course don’t forget that you also have to take a stab at coming up with some answers.

  11. Riley Elizabeth says:

    Hi Ms. Markoe,

    My name is Riley and I am also apart of the Humanities 11 program. (Are you starting to see a trend yet? ;))

    I thoroughly enjoyed your essay and laughed out loud at many parts. One of my teachers from this course has challenged us to respond to your post, asking your what your take is on today’s identity challenges and the fact of being one’s self. I understand that the fact of being different sometimes scares people and yet being all the same should not be the answer. As shown in your essay, it is impossible to put people into categories because no two people are alike. What do you think is the cause of this fragile identity?
    Thanks so much for reading this!
    -Riley

    • Dear Riley:
      AHA. So that’s who is behind all these letters. Tell that teacher of yours they definitely made my head rotate 360 degrees. I am going to have to go in for some neck adjustments after this.
      And as for your remark :”As shown in your essay, it is impossible to put people into categories because no two people are alike. .”…if that’s what I seemed to be saying, I’m not so sure I gave you the right idea. Because human beings definitely have as many things in common with each other as they have differences. The things people have in common are the reason there can be literature and plays and movies and peace accords and governments and trade agreements and fast food franchises.
      However when it comes to those quizzes about which I was writing…well, most of them are written by people of no particular expertise who are just trying to fill up space in magazines and on the internet in order to sell advertising to the sponsors who pay their salaries. They have about as much insight to share with you about yourself as a fortune cookie. Their main goal is to keep you on the page long enough for you to notice the ad for Sprite or lipstick or a new Justin Bieber album that is in the corner.
      And as for the last part of your question “What do you think is the cause of this fragile identity?”…identity tends to become less fragile over time. In fact, the biggest challenge as you get older is not to become so mired in your identity and therefore so stuck in your views that you can’t even comprehend someone else’s opinion. For a good example of this, take a look at the United States Senate on any given day during a vote.
      Merrill

  12. Raphaela says:

    Dear Ms. Markoe,
    I am also a student from the already mentioned Humanities 11 course. I found your piece very interesting and thoroughly enjoyed reading it!!

    In Humanities this year, we are studying the “Human Identity Crisis” and for this reason I am replying to you. It seems that many people in this world today are not sure of whom they are as a person. We’ve seemed to have lost out “roots” and our connection with who we really are and have to reach out to other people and things to try and find out who we are.

    Could you share some of your insights on this matter? Why do you think that we are so “insecure” in a way of who we are and cannot reach within ourselves to find out who we really are?

    From,
    Raphaela

    • Dear Raphaela:
      Wow.
      The people in your class ask hard questions!
      Please remember that I am not an expert in this area. I am just a person who wrote a hopefully funny article on internet quizzes.
      That said…I think that throughout the recorded history of the human being on planet earth, there has always seemed to be a pattern of reaching out to other people and things to try and find out who we are. And usually it starts, in earnest, at about your age.
      I don’t know if insecurity is the right word. The truth is that It just takes TIME to develop an identity and be comfortable with who you are. Until you hit your teens, you are kind of willing to just accept whatever your parents have in mind for you as a human being. But you must have heard the phrase “adolescent identity crisis’ by now…it refers to the moment where a person wants more than someone else’s definition of who they are. Its starts at your age. Everyone begins looking around and trying to decide what they really want for themselves. Do they want to be just like their parents or is there something else they’d rather pursue?
      There’s no one answer for everyone. And there is no substitute for time in getting to the answer that makes the best sense for you. I made one set of decisions about who i was and what I was going to be when I was 17, and then another set entirely when I was 27. And everything shifted again when I was 40.
      The best thing to do at your age is try to take in as much of the outside world and as many points of view on things that interest you as you can. Read, travel, take classes, look at art…The more smart stuff you input in to your system, the better your perspective on what you want to become. I do know this: the things that are most right for you are the things that make you feel comfortable and happy about being alive. I have no idea if I answered your question at all. But good luck . I’m sure you’ll do fine.
      Merrill

  13. Hannah says:

    Hello Mrs. Markoe,

    I enjoy your style of writing, which so perfectly shows the irony of the period in history we are studying in our Grade 11 Humanities course. I like how you show that all the personality and other kinds of quizzes out there are so confusing and futile as far as showing you who you are. As part of my Planning 10 course last year I had to take quite a few quizzes like that (personality, spiritual gifts, work style, etc) and I don’t know how they come up with some of the results – they were not even relevant! No computer knows me and can honestly tell me anything that is true about me; only my parents and/or a close friend because they have real experience…

    I think that everybody wants to know who they are and that many people are very confused about their ‘inner self’ and who they TRULY are. I believe that this has come from a society that is becoming more and more disjointed (by way of cell phones, TV, less family interaction, etc), and from people taking leave of and not wanting anything to do anymore with the traditional ways of their parents and grandparents….

    But what do YOU think has led to this very confused state of our society?? Why is the identity strategy so fragile? Why have we not succeeded in finding true freedom in this current society and the way we are going? Because really if you think about it, we should be much more free now than any other time in history…think of all our technological advancements, time savers, fulfilling careers, more material possessions, etc. Instead, I think that all it has given us is a new kind of bondage—bondage to THINGS. Instead of using our extra time for productive pursuits, how many of us (myself included) waste our time (mainly on the computer or TV, right?) instead of doing productive things??

    Thank you!
    Hannah

    • Dear Hannah:
      The fact that you are confused about your “inner self’ at your age just shows that you are doing everything right. That’s pretty much exactly what you are supposed to be doing at your age…thinking about all these things. Beginning to form some big questions and look for answers about what you want to do with your life.
      Its true that cell phones, games, lap tops, etc etc provide a lot of distraction. But since you’re aware of this, its your job not to fall prey to them in that way but instead to use technology as an amazing tool that can provide you with access to all kinds of information and other view points. You dont have to let it become a substitute for real experiences in the real world. In fact, since you know this…you better not let it. Because its a very poor substitute for first hand experiences. But its a fantastic research resource. Just remind yourself to keep things in perspective.
      I don’t know that society was ever very much less confused. It might be that it seems more confusing now because we are all so quickly bombarded by instantaneous hyperbolic discussions about everything via the internet. That’s not always a good thing because one thing the internet doesn’t necessarily have is anyone checking facts. Before the internet, newspapers used to have to research things before they could print them. Now even a rumor can seem like a fact in just a few minutes. And before anyone ever bothers to find out if it true or not, it is a headline that has spread around the world. No wonder we are all walking around with our eyes spinning in different directions. That is a very confusing thing that is kind of new. But now that we know that this happens, it is all of our jobs to make sure that we are being careful about finding out whether or not what we have read is the truth…especially before we use the information as the basis for making any big life decisions.
      I have a feeling I didn’t really answer your question. You and your classmates ask HARD QUESTIONS. That sounds like a pretty interesting class you were taking.
      I hope I didn’t confuse you further.
      Merrill

      • Hannah says:

        Hello again Mrs. Markoe!

        I feel sorry for you, being bombarded with all of us enuthusiasitic Humanities students! :) I appreciate you taking time to reply to all of us, and rest assured, you didn’t confuse me further….I like the way you pointed out that perhaps society was never less confused, it’s just heightened and more pronounced now. I realize you’re not an expert on this kind of stuff, but it is cool to see what other people think. As far as Humanities goes, it is an awesome, AWESOME course (at least I really like it!)…it is SO thought-provoking.

        Thanks once again.
        Hannah

      • Hannah:
        I am curious. From what city and state are the enthusiastic students of Humanities 11?

      • Hannah says:

        Well, it’s an online course, so we’re from all over. I’m not sure where eveyone lives…. :)

  14. Raina Saunders says:

    Hi Ms. Markoe,

    I am yet another Humanities student with a question!!
    As others have said, we have been exploring freedom and identity in our course. In many ways it seems harder to be free than to be controlled from outside because there are so many choices to make. I have come to think that knowing your identity is to find true freedom.
    Could you elaborate on your previous response about how a person finds their identity? Do you think life experiences change what your identity is, or is your inner identity and personality always the same and different experiences just draw out different aspects of it? Do you think that to be confident in your identity is to be free or is freedom something that’s controlled by circumstance and laws?

    Thank you so very much!

    Raina Saunders

    • Dear Raina:
      Thanks for writing.
      You guys seem to be forgetting that when we talk about ‘freedom’, we are referring to the kind of freedom that is available inside of the structure of what is commonly referred to as civilization. Depending on what country that civilization is in, there are going to be various rules and limitations imposed that supposedly serve the greater good. For example, in the United States were are expected to respect the rights of others as delineated in The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Therefore, you are not allowed to develop an identity that is based on being someone who gets to kill everyone who does not like Dancing with the Stars. In a way that restricts your freedom. But for obvious reasons. And the rest of us are relieved .
      But that’s probably not what you are really asking me.
      There are a lot of theories about how identity is formed. A good basic psychology text will offer a better overview. However since you asked for my opinion, it seems to me that we are each born with certain inate tendencies and abilities. And then in the first few years of life, we are either encouraged to flower and grow toward those things that come naturally to us or somehow thwarted from our desire to reach for them by people who think they have a better idea. When we hit your age, we take a look at the way all these things have tumbled together for the first time. Then, if we are smart and paying attention,(and don’t get distracted along the way by all those problematic things like laziness, substance abuse, depression,) we spend the rest of our lives either fulfilling our original dreams or redefining them and reshaping them into something we can cope with that is within our reach and therefore more practical. But it doesn’t seem to be a level playing field. You will need to see which things best combine your abilities and your passion.
      Like I said to Joy.. try keeping a journal in which you talk to yourself about what is important to you. Don’t worry about whether it is well written. Interview yourself. Ask yourself questions about what you really love and where your passion really lies. Ask yourself about what makes you comfortable and happy. Once you have this information, look for ways to act on the things that make you feel good about yourself. Maybe its helping other people. I notice that your e mail address is animal lover. Maybe its helping animals. Try volunteering at a local animal rescue and see how that makes you feel. Maybe it will lead to studying about animals in college or somewhere in order to help them. I think you will find that as you move forward toward the things that matter to you, presto: your identity shows up. And if the things that matter to you expand and change, well…that stuff goes in to the mix and is added on. You don’t have to put yourself in a corner and say that you are only one thing. But you are limited somewhat by your innate abilities. We all know kids who are already amazing singers by the time they are five or six. And others who can’t carry a tune after a decade of lessons. So work with the things you can do. I never knew I was going to be a writer until my late twenties. I studied art and acting in high school and college. But I always knew I was kind of good at writing and one day it took over. Lately I am trying to combine them all. I think its a good thing to let your identity keep evolving.
      Hope that helps.
      Merrill

    • PS:
      A short part 2. I feel like it is wrong to not mention that your identity is not only the way that you earn a living….it is also all a mix of all the other things you are striving to be as a person. Are you patient and kind, or hot headed and terrifying? These less tangible but equally real things that you see yourself doing everyday also go in to the mix. If you become a veterinarian, you probably also want to be a patient and kind veterinarian…not a short tempered and violent one. So if you do decide to keep a journal, you might want to make a list of all the things that you hope the people you care about see in you. Then, of course, you need to continue to back the things on that list up with actions, and voila: there’s another description of your identity.

    • P.S.P.S.=
      A final word about identity to all of Humanities 11 from my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut Junior.
      “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

  15. Jonah says:

    Hi Ms. Markoe

    My name is Jonah and i am also apart of this humanities 11 course!!!
    I found your writing very inspiring becuase i have often thought of
    trying these surveys but could never bring myself to do it. I especially
    enjoyed when you wrote “(with emphasis on the word little, because
    since the quiz couldn’t see me, how reassuring could it be?)” I found
    this super funny becuse most of these surveys take there answers
    out of thin air.

    I really enjoyed reading,
    Jonah

    • Thanks Jonah. And thank you for not slipping in another question about how to find your identity in today’s fragmented world, since I hate to repeat myself and am not sure I have any more good answers to that question.
      Merrill

  16. Lacy Kingcade says:

    Dude, I desire I could publish articles 50 percent as very as you. Your posts are generally so properly published.

  17. Addison Virag says:

    Hello Ms. Markoe,

    My name is Addison and I am yet another student from Humanities 11 that has to pelt you with questions and comments about your article as an assignment. I won’t get into the details though because you have heard them about twenty times already, so I will cut to the chase.

    As I read your article I liked it how you put a lot of humor into your writing like when you said “So there I was, alone in my house and suddenly a lot less attractive than I had been a few minutes earlier.” because everyone knows that women only say that when they look in the mirror and think “O my gosh I am so fat” even though they are like 5′ 4″ and weigh like 100 pounds.
    But the things is, don’t you think that some people today take what these “tests” and what other people say as such a big deal even though they all have different results/comments? because me personally I think that people should be more confident in themselves.

    —Addison—

    • Dear Addison:
      There is one really nice thing about getting older. And it is becoming more comfortable with yourself. Unless you are working around the clock to remain a dunderhead, you will find that it just happens over time. And as it does, any one with any sense begins to find those quizzes too stupid to even bother reading. Congratulations. I have a feeling you have already passed in to this category.

  18. Jillian says:

    Hello Ms. Markoe

    I am yet another student from the Humanities 11 course that has been plaguing you with questions, it may have seemed like we were all done, but there is still more of us to come.

    I enjoyed reading your story and thought that it gave a good example of how people today are bombarded with so many identities of who they could be or are told that they should be, that they all start contradicting one another and we as people get overwhelmed and can completely lose any identity that we originally thought we had, let alone help us find our identity. I really appreciated how you made that point in your essay, also how you brought out that we really cannot find ourselves in the world around us as it give us so many things that we could be, but that we have to look in ourselves and if you have any belief in a supreme creator to him to see how he created you.

    In our course we have talked about how a big shift happened in the 60’s which caused us to move out from more traditional, conservative and foundational ways of living and thinking and moved to a society where we now had the freedom to be able to be and do anything one desires. This change was not necessarily bad, but we have seen that since this change everyone now seems to be in an identity crisis which bring me to this question. Where do you think this freedom to experience any form of thought, idea, or action will take us in the future? And also how with so many people already being in an identity crisis will this affect the future generations?

    Thank You,
    Jillian

  19. Tara says:

    Dear Ms Markoe,

    I am from an online school and also taking Humanities 11 as well.
    When I read your essay and I agreed 100% we are contently told on who to be, and how to change.
    I must admit I tend to like taking these tests once in awhile to see what comes up. But whatever the answer being doesn’t mean we have to be what it tells us we are to be or do.
    We are free to be whoever we want and hopefully people will remember that. With so much in this world telling us who we are and who were supposed to be, it’s easy to get lost on who we really are. What’s your intake on what they world wants us to be and act like, and how are someways that you have tried to ignore what the world says you are, and stuck with being who you really are?

    I really found the part at the end where you put everything the tests said you are and put it all together, it made a lot of sense on how the world really tries to put us in how it see’s us. Especially how it put you in a religion you never heard of.

    Thank you so much for writing about this.
    From,
    Tara

    • Dear Tara:
      Humanities 11 sounds like a very interesting class. Thank you for writing.
      As it turns out, I have answered a lot of similar kinds of questions from other Humanities 11 students in the comments just above yours. So I invite you scroll up and read my other replies. Hopefully something I said to one of your classmates will answer your question.
      But, as I told your other classmates, I am not an expert on this topic. Just a person who writes humor.
      Again: thank you for your lovely letter.

  20. Thea Anderson says:

    Hello Ms Markoe

    I do believe I am the last of the Humanities 11 students to write. As a die hard procrastinator (no quiz needed to tell me that), I am finally getting around to finishing my assignments. In this section of the course we are learning about freedom and the “human identity crisis”. Which I won’t go into as many of my fellow students have already divulged this to you.

    I enjoyed your article as it dealt with a hugely self-challenging topic in a comical way that’s germane to most North American people. I found the whole article to be quite interesting but the most intriguing part for me was this underlying theme of searching. In the beginning you said, “the quiz glistens like a beacon of potential insight before you, offering answers to all the important questions in life.” As well as saying this about taking an ‘attractive quiz’ , “I guess I needed a little reassurance that day”. I believe that the reasons these quizzes about personality, likeability, compatibility, etc, are so popular is because we are all searching for validation of some kind; something, someone, to tell us who we are and how we rank in the great scale of life. This article reads almost as if the quiz is a person, or at least they are given the power of a person of great value, their judgment is able to have a profound affect on your self-worth. The quizzes embody the values of how our society is so damaged in our self image that we will turn to anything for validation and act upon its single judgment.

    These are my opinions in my so minimally experienced youth, so a question I shall pose to you in hopes of broadening my world view is: Do you believe that the task of discovering ones identity is being falsely advertised in this world as simply indulging in the ‘feel good’ and finding validation in the commercial values rather then inspecting your motives and going deeper into the emotional/spiritual values?
    Thank you,
    Thea Anderson

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