Maegan Sheets Intro to Developmental Psych
10/17/11 Writing Assignment #2: Identity, Culture, and Cohort
Identity, culture, and cohort are three important factors that affect how people view themselves and the world, how others view them, and how they tell their story. Identity is a
broad subject that encompasses everything about a person and is affected by culture and cohort.
A person’s identity ranges from their personality, to their beliefs and customs, to the way they
look, and more; much more. There are many different cultures that can affect an individual’s identity and many individuals even come from multicultural backgrounds, making their identities even more diverse. A person’s cohort is made clear by many distinct markers in the popular
media, history, and pop culture of their time. Reading the “I am from…” poems from our
section made me see the ways that other people in my cohort grew up. I found that some were
astonishingly different yet others were very much the same.
Because identity is based off of culture and cohort, every single individual’s identity is very distinct and unique, yet still vaguely similar to others in the same cohort. Each and every
human being has a different story to tell about their experiences, but each story is also marked by characteristics of its cohort. When reading the “I am from…” poems from our class, I noticed
that certain television shows, games, musicians and events showed up in a majority of the poems.
These are all markers of our cohort, people who were born in the early 1990’s. I found myself
thinking; “Hey! My friends and I used to be obsessed with that too!” when things such as N*SYNC, The Backstreet Boys, The Spice Girls, pokemon, Nintendo, and Rugrats were
mentioned in the poems written by my classmates. A really popular cohort effect that was
brought up in many poems was Kraft macaroni and cheese. Amanda Przychodny’s poem brought
back some happy childhood memories when I read, “I am from playing with Barbies and Polly
Pockets.” I so loved my Barbies and Polly Pockets! My dad even built me a wooden doll house that was painted to look just like the house we lived in. Amanda also talks about living in the
middle of nowhere, and people wearing steel-toe boots and blasting country music from their trucks. Although these things are not cohort related, I can definitely relate to them because it sounds a lot like where I grew up.
A major historical cohort effect is the 9/11 terrorist attack on the world trade center in NYC. Taylor Porter said “I am from a country coming together, after planes toppled the buildings on 9/11. Watching the news in third grade and seeing the devastation, led to a renewed sense of being in everyone. Emotions still run high for me, whenever that anniversary comes
around. Or movies and documentaries display horrors on the screen.” I distinctly remember the
day that it happened I was in third grade, as most of us freshman were, and my teacher went out in the hall for a bit and came back in with tears in her eyes telling us, “class, a terrible thing has happened…”
I had a mostly happy childhood with loving parents and many of the other authors had childhoods similar to mine, but I also read some deeply emotional poems that I could not relate to and I applaud all of these people for putting themselves out there and sharing their experiences.
In one of the Anonymous poems it talks about not eating or sleeping, being depressed and alone, and cutting during adolescent years. I found I couldn’t relate very well to these experiences, but
it was very eye opening. Jarvis Lu also wrote a deeply meaningful poem about the fickle world in which he lives and how it has given him the short end of the stick, yet he still hopes for it to get better one day. Another aspect of growing up that I read, and could not relate to, was growing up or being born in another country. The very last Anonymous poem in the anthology
thsaid “I am from Hong Kong, a tiny city living on the 19 floor in a 37-story building.” I think it
would be very cool to live in another country, but I would not change my childhood for anything.
Writing my “I am from…” poem has opened my eyes to the way other people view me
and the things that are most important in my life. I have seen the very diverse ways that other
people have grown up and it helps me to understand who they are today. In comparing my poem
to others, I got to see all the ways that my cohort is similar to one another. The places we grew
up, the foods we ate, the way we were parented as children; these all explain why we are who we are.