The Ten Things That Define Who I Am

Identity is obviously so important, and it's also super relevant. A few years ago, I wrote a post called "Here are literally 50 things you can talk to me about other than me being gay" and it was a cool way to reflect on who I actually am. I recommend doing it! I think it's time for an updated version of that post now from 24-year-old New York City Ben. Below is a list of ten forces in my life that I think define me. Let's get started:

1. I dream more than anyone I know.

It’s important to me that my life is original. I love the idea of leading a fully distinct life. As a child, I dreamed of getting my driver’s license and driving my friends to movies, to concerts. In college I dreamed of my big huge career. Walking into an office in a big city with purpose, having something to work on. Having fun in my day, making interesting friends. I still dream of my life. My future pets, my future loves, my home. I want to be happy, and I love thinking of ways to make that happen.

2. I’m a really, really good friend.

My life has been about making connections. I am obsessive about meeting new people and winning them over. When there is someone I care about, I care about them always. My friends are the most important force of support in my life, and I don’t take that for granted.

3. I love to create things.

When I came out, my mom jokingly asked if it was a phase. And it was because I truly like to try new things. I have spent year after year creating and trying new things. Producing and painting, singing and dancing. I love to create things, and I love to post projects online.  

4. Mental Health is something I think I’m good at.

At age 11, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I struggled. A lot. I have spent years learning how to handle myself when I know I’m going to break down. I have spent so much time going up and down through so many issues with my moods. I am really lucky to have had a family who knew how to handle my struggles, and how to help me learn. How to teach me to teach myself to deal with my own mental health. In college, I had breakdown after breakdown, slowly building an education for myself. Failing and learning what didn’t work. At 24, I think I’m really strong, and able to control my life. I’m still in shock by that, and I’m really excited about it.

5. New York.

There are few things in life where you can define a “before” and an “after.” New York is one of these things for me. I always had the idea that I could live in New York City, and when I graduated college, I knew it was pretty much now or never, and I chose now. Before I moved to New York, I felt uncertain, unstable. I felt constricted by the future. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew how I wanted to feel. After I moved to New York, I landed in a fair bit of certainty. A feeling of strong security. A new foundation of who I was. New York is the greatest gift I have ever received.

6. I love comedy and I love to make people laugh.

As a child, I learned pretty quickly the power that laughter had to break tension. The power a good joke has at the dinner table, in a classroom. I was always able to escape into, and even hide behind humor, and I learned to love it. I love to turn frowns upside down more than almost anything in the entire world. I love awkward situations, and when people give me a hard time. Being funny is my most favorite thing to be.

7. I love the time that I have to myself.

Extrovert isn’t my whole story. I love to take full days talking to nobody, listening to just me. My ideal day takes place under a heating blanket with my computer charger plugged in close. Netflix is worth so much more than just 10 dollars monthly. I love cooking for myself eating alone and I love listening to universally loathed music that I’m passionate about. There really isn’t anything like a day inside my mind. I am my own biggest fan, my own favorite person.

8. I love finding role models.

Asking people about their experiences is one of the best ways that I spend my time. I think it’s important. People who are older than I am, people who are more experienced than me. People who have done things that I haven’t. I have ideas about 35 year old Ben Hawes, and my favorite conversations happen with 35 year olds who have achieved their own definitions of success, of happiness.

9. I am obsessed with Karaoke, and I always have been.

My mom bought us a karaoke machine when we were just kids to help us learn how to read. I fell in love with singing Shania Twain’s perfect music and learning about songs my parents and their friends loved as teenagers. I didn’t know what a karaoke bar was until I was thirteen and my parents went OUT to karaoke with friends. I planned then and there for my 21st birthday to be a karaoke blowout, and eight years later, that happened. In college I went to The Mint Karaoke Bar in San Francisco with friends almost weekly, and it was there that I learned that people pay attention if you start your song lying on the floor. Since moving to New York, my favorite nights were the nights where groups of my friends jammed to karaoke all night long. Singing Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” at a karaoke work happy hour put me on the map at my company when I was new. I plan to have karaoke at my wedding.

10. Women.

The most inspiring people I know are women. Girl Power songs are the ones I have on repeat. Female empowerment is just something I care about. I love listening to what women have to say. Learning about women and learning from them is a necessity and a joy. I love supporting women. I love voting for women. Women have been the people in my life who have been so instrumental in my own self-confidence. My story wouldn’t be worth telling without the stories of the women who have helped to shape it.

Your turn! What things define you? Let me know in the comments, and don't forget to follow me on twitter in the side bar, and subscribe to my blog by email. Have a great week!