Navigating intersections of self

Commentary by Pearl Lorentzen

The intersection of Highway 88, Caribou Trail, and the Sawridge Travel Centre in Slave Lake and Sawridge First Nation scares me. The highway goes north. Caribou Trail and the gravel road on the east side of the road both have stop signs. This is not the scary part.

The terrifying part is that the parking lot of the truck stop comes out at an angle into the intersection. It has no signs, although it is obvious that people exiting the truck stop should wait for everyone else. However, they do not. The truck stop has two other entrances and exits, which are at a safer distance from the intersection, but very few people use them. Instead, logging trucks, sports cars, and pickups shoot out of the intersection in front of oncoming traffic or at an angle across the road heading onto Caribou Trail. Given the option, I will drive through town instead of driving through that intersection.

I started reflecting on this intersection when I was thinking about intersectionality of identity (because philosophical and sociological concepts like to rattle around in my brain). It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Basically it means that people don’t have one set identity. Instead, each one of us has various intersecting identities. For example, I am female, Canadian-American of mixed European descent with a Norwegian last name, Christian, writer, creative person, introvert who enjoys people in small doses and small groups or one-on-one, and I like to travel.

Each of these identities has the potential to provide safe or unsafe intersections and connections with other people and within myself.

I was recently watching an episode of ‘Finding Your Roots’ on PBS. One of the guests said that if she was in a room of women and African Americans and had to pick, she would choose African American. Later on as she learned more about her ancestors, she realized that it was possible she had more white ancestors than black. When she received her DNA breakdown, she was over 50 per cent black, which meant a lot to her.

Thankfully, for the most part we don’t have to choose one identity over another, but when we do it can cause internal strife. Just like the Caribou Trail/88/Sawridge intersection, we can feel that the place where these identities cross is not safe.

However, if handled correctly these intersections can be a time of personal growth. Over the years, I learned to hold my identities lightly. This allows me to grow and change over the years.

As a child, I was extremely shy. In my early 20s, I started to overcome my shyness. It was slow at first, but eventually, I developed the ability to talk to pretty much anyone.

Years later, when I was in Japan. I made friends quickly, including with a young Japanese student. One day, I mentioned that I used to be shy. ‘Uso!’, she said. Which directly translates as ‘a lie’, but means ‘no way, really? unbelievable.’

On the same trip, none of my classmates believed me when I said I was an introvert.

Both of these showed me how much I had changed. I’m still an introvert. I need time alone to recharge my emotions and mind, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being with people.

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One thought on “Navigating intersections of self

  1. Beautifully written. It is so true that we wrestle with our identity many times in life. It is like a paradox, but eventually the truth of who we are will come through. This piece gave me a lot of cause for thought. Thank you.


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