Making Your Mark
My debut young adult novel Dark Parties chronicles a country that has closed itself off under an electrified dome. For hundreds of years, no one and nothing has penetrated this barrier. The citizens of Homeland are growing to look more and more alike.
The rebels in my book create identity marks to express their individuality and, for some, to easily distinguish them from everyone else. My main character Neva distils her friends into the identity marks they have created for themselves. Her best friend Sanna carves an S on her cheek to create a scar. Sanna’s boyfriend always wears red, pointy-toed boots.
You don’t have to live under a dome or in a restricted homogenous society to condense people into a simple identifier. We’ve all said something like: You know the guy in the cowboy hat. Or it’s the girl with the dragon tattoo. Or he’s the one with bad breath.
While writing Dark Parties, I often wondered what identity mark I’d create for myself and what identity mark others would create for me. I never came up with a concise answer. I think that’s because, like the characters learn in Dark Parties, people are more complex than can ever been expressed in a symbol.
But if I had to pick, maybe I’d choose...
A snowflake – Neva’s identity mark is a snowflake tattoo between her belly button and hip. I might copy Neva – although not the location, or probably the tattoo part. I love snow, not only the real, cold fluffy stuff that falls from the sky in the winter but also what it symbolizes – originality. In high school, I had a pin that said: Why be normal? If I could find it, I’d proudly wear it today.
Peace symbol – I’m not a fan of conflict – not at the global level or at a personal level. Unless someone’s in immediate personal danger, I don’t believe there’s any reason to raise your voice. My father always said, “If you raise your voice, you lose.” I endeavor to keep my cool and work for a peaceful resolution.
Megaphone – No, I wasn’t a cheerleader. But it’s the best image I could come up with to represent enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ I whole heartedly agree. I may not be the best or the brightest, but I’m hard working and try to live my life with zeal.
US and UK flags – Eight years ago I moved to London, England, from Indianapolis, Indiana. This life change was the catalyst for Dark Parties. I’m now a unique blend of both the US and UK and wonder if it makes me misunderstood on both sides of the Atlantic.
Star – Okay, maybe a bit cliché, but my parents always told me the sky’s the limit. I believe I can achieve any dream with sacrifice, hard work and tenacity. I struggled for seventeen years to achieve my dream of publication. It was about trying, failing, learning from my mistakes, and trying again. And I know it’s a never-ending process.
Book – Yeah, this is a simple one. I love reading them and writing them.
Unlike Neva, none of these symbols are tattooed anywhere on my body. I could never pick just one and to choose them all would make my body look like a children’s colouring book. (I am also concerned about how these images would morph as my body aged. Will a wrinkly, flabby snowflake have the same appeal? Don’t think so.)
I suppose I believe that what makes me unique has little to do with some arbitrary mark I create for myself or my physical appearance. Actions speak louder than words or clothes or tattoos. I would like to think my ‘identity mark’ would be something like loyalty, reliability, and enthusiasm – not the most compelling combination, I realize. But I hope it would be the words my friends, family and co-workers would use to describe me.
So how about you? What identity mark would you create for yourself? What words would you or those close to you use to describe you? How are you unique in what can sometimes feel a world where sameness rules?
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