My Beard & Me is an introspective series about identity and the things we use to define our identities (like my beard). Join me every Thursday throughout the month of November as I reflect on the concept of identity, what it means to me, and how this applies to our lives in Student Affairs.
Today is October 31, known to some as Halloween, a day where children and adults alike dress up in fun costumes and, for a brief time, assume the identity of something/one else. But this year, for me, I won’t assume a new identity—I’ll be giving away a piece of my own. You see, earlier this week, I signed up to be a member of Ryerson Student Affairs’ Movember team.
For those that are not familiar with Movember, you can find out more about it on Troy Murray’s post about philanthropic outreach, or by checking out the official Movember page. But to sum it up: men around the world grow moustaches for 30 days to raise awareness for men’s health issues, raising donations that go to hundreds of programs across the globe.
Though I’ve considered participating in the past, this will be the first year that I actually do. You see, I rock a moustache all year long, with the small caveat that it’s not really a stache, and more an important extension of my other facial identification—my beard. (That’s it up there in the picture.) As much as I wanted to participate, year after year I ended up choosing my beard over outreach because I just couldn’t bring myself to shave it off.
But Troy is a very persuasive person, and as he continued to encourage me to sign-up, I took a long look at why I kept choosing my chin fur over the cause. It was during this deep introspection that I realized why I hesitated. Some men, they’ll grow a beard or shave it off on a whim, just like changing a shirt; it’s not tied to their image. What I realized—something so obvious I have literally been wearing it on my face for years—is that my beard, in all it’s fuzzy glory, is an important part of my identity.
I originally grew it in the winter of 2005, second semester of my first year at university. There were some, uh, growing pains, as I taught myself proper care and maintenance of a beard, but by the start of my second year, we were one. And after a brief, post-Orientation shave in 2007, my face hasn’t been bare since. (Fun story: my close friend, Candice, takes responsibility for convincing me to grow it. Much later, I found out she told me to grow it because she thought I’d look silly. The plan backfired on her though, and seven years later she agreed to marry me.)
That’s seven straight years I’ve sported the beard. In total, it’s seven-plus years of defining something as me. There are many things that make me who I am, but the beard is definitely in the top five. I’ve made it a part of my identity. And who wants to give up their identity?
Then I started to think about our students. How they’re facing a constant barrage of identity crises every day. Some are still searching for meaning, while some have found it but are forced to hide it from friends or family. Our students are coping with who they are in the concepts of gender, sexuality, spirituality, culture; their very place in this world. How could I get caught up in something as meaningless as chin hair?
But wait, stop: who’s to say it’s meaningless? Yeah, it is just hair—but, to me, it’s a whole lot more. I made it a part of who I am, and if I did that with the stubble on my chin, what else could a person adopt into their identity that the world considers trivial but nonetheless is an important, defining element of their identity?
With all these thoughts in mind, I decided to set myself on a quest to investigate my bearded identity. Throughout the month of November, I welcome you to join me as I bare my soul in weekly reflection posts about my experience sans-beard, hopefully learning something about identity that we can use to help our students, and better understand ourselves. And speaking of bare…
If you would like to join the Ryerson Student Affairs Team or donate to the cause, you can do so on our team page. Good luck, gentlemen, and happy Movember!
Join me next week as I reflect on people’s reaction to a beardless Luke, and make a startling discovery regarding who “owns” my identity.