Discovering who you are and the core of your identity in life is a little like discovering fonts on a Word program, only the stakes are higher.
When I first discovered different fonts on Word, I was like a kid in a candy store, an artist in a gallery, a mom at a spa….I was ecstatic. So much to choose from! Word programs come with all kinds of fonts, ranging from cute and sassy to formal. It was an adventure to figure out what to put on my documents. And I had a great time experimenting but eventually it all came down to one question: What does my writing want to portray and how can the font best communicate that message?
It was creating a document at work and musing on fonts one day when I began to think about what fonts teach me about Life. It’s a partly glib, partially serious question. Identity in life can resemble picking the font for a piece of writing. It raised this question for me: In this narrative called life have I found my font? Who am I and by what do I want to be known?
It’s taken me a long time to find my font in the narrative of life. I went through a tedious process of adjustment after leaving Pakistan at 18 years and went back to Pakistan as soon as possible after college. I went through another process of adjustment at the age of 36 coming to the United States after living as an adult overseas. The second time the adjustment was compounded because I was not alone – I had 5 kids with the basic need for security, especially as we were a displaced lot. I was dreadfully naïve in some areas and oh so mature in others. At times I felt something like a chameleon blending in with whatever background was around me.
Finding my font has been a little like that – Initially with no confidence or understanding of the way fonts work for a reader. Comic Sans was my font of choice at that point – informal and catchy. Then, desperate to be taken seriously as I began developing curriculum, I moved on to Times New Roman at 12 point. While it felt a little boring, I had heard it was easy on the eyes for the reader. In fact an article came out saying that hideous fonts boost reader comprehension! Courier new? That came as I attempted to be like someone else and she was using Courier new. I’ve settled on Arial at 11 point. It seems to work for readers and for me.
The analogy can stop there but my thoughts moved it a step farther. A font is nothing without the writer. It’s the content developed by a creator that infuses it with life and meaning. So for identity – is it really about who I am, or whose I am? If I’m not infused with life by a Creator, I become just a font on a computer screen. Nothing more.