One of my absolute favorite ads shown at Carolina sporting events is the Rams Club “I am a Tar Heel” ad. It shows a series of clips of well-known coaches and players (current and graduated) saying variations of “I’m so-and-so and I am a tar heel.” There’s something exciting about that. Everyone cheers for their favorites, and it really gets the crowd moving. I absolutely love it.
Recently it got me thinking. The reason we get so into that is because of the shared experience- we too are tar heels, we share in that identity. We can make that claim as well, and that’s exciting to have that connection. There’s nothing wrong with that- I know I buy into it.
But think about that premise. “I am a tar heel.” When its said that way, its a defining characteristic. I am a woman. I am white. I am a Christian. I am a student. I am 5’4″. I am smart. I am single. I am American. So which of these define us? Which do we put our identity into? We put our identity in tons of things. Grades, career path, birthplace, friend group, girlfriend/boyfriend, income. The things we’re most afraid of losing are usually the ones that shape our identity.
All of those statements begin with “I am.” But are any of those are big enough to identify me?
Most of my friends who I’ve known all through college have dealt with figuring out who they are. Whether they mean to or not, we spend our time in college figuring out which of these statements are going to be defining characteristics. For me, my faith has become the defining characteristic. It’s the only one of those things has provided a complete identity, not just a part.
Some of these shape your experience but aren’t defining parts of who I am. Being American (even southern) has had an influence on me, but I’ve learned how to look beyond that and recognize how being raised in the US affects my opinions.
Being a Tar Heel will be an important part of the rest of my life, but it’s not a defining characteristic. And I’m glad about that.
…someone please remind me of this during basketball season next year.