How Root & Seed helps with identity.

Family, we love you. But after a couple of weeks of holiday togetherness, we need a break. It’s about us now :) And after a full year of hearing our communities’ stories, learning the impact of those histories on your lives, we wanted to reflect and provide some observations on how we as individuals can benefit from understanding our full story. We know there are unique identities and there are collective identities…unique being (what I am experiencing is only mine), collective is (I’m part of something.) But we wonder, how do the two intersect to make the whole?


In this article, Root & Seed Co-Founder Anika Chabra shares thoughts on how understanding your past, being intentional about what you let in, own and what you take into the future can help strengthen one’s individual identity.


When I started Root & Seed my almost 80-year-old dad couldn’t quite understand what I was doing. You see, for him looking to the past was something he and my mom never willingly wanted to do. It’s part of the immigrant spirit to look forward, make decisions with the best of your knowledge at the time, and forge on. Through more uncovering, I’ve realized that there was trauma, especially for my mom in looking to the past. This is not to say that they didn’t respect where they came from. But there was little by way of questioning and definitely no investigating on how those events and experiences influenced who they are today.


We’ve had a handful of people of our generation who’ve also said “I have no interest in looking at the past - I’m all about the future”. We get that. To them we say, by acknowledging the past - it doesn’t mean you need to take it forward into the future. Not blindly at least. Could learning about those events help you make sense of your story and your present-day identity? What makes you, you?


Identity includes a sense of belonging

For me, I never quite felt comfortable in the communities around me. I wasn’t popular, definitely not the smartest and always felt “outside” the places I spent time. So I compensated for that - looking for external validation everywhere I went. Through therapy I’ve realized that this is about me not being comfortable in my own skin and not truly knowing who I am.


Sometimes it takes a major event of significance to jolt you into really understanding yourself. For me it was the sudden death of my mom. And for me, re-entrenching in my culture on my terms was a way for me to anchor and feel part of something bigger than myself. I felt very alone when my mom died, then comforted by tradition through the repetition of recipes, acts and symbols of my ancestors. Suddenly I felt less alone. Suddenly I created a community that I felt a part of.


We are mindset believers

We believe in the power of the mind to work to create a life that is authentically yours. There are end-of-season exercises like “cutting and clearing” and “sifting and sorting” which bring “intention” to the choices you make and the narratives you create and importantly, what you want to take forward. Put simply, you evaluate past events and experiences (short and long term), decide what aligns with your goals and present-day sense of self and make a decision on what you want to do again and keep as part of your life.


We wondered if versions of those exercises could be helpful for our Root & Seed community. So once the holiday haze dissipates and the eggnog hangovers end, could being intentional bring greater clarity on how 2023 will shape up? Could we help you own your story as you honour your past and nurture your future?


If you are game, here are some ideas!

Make a list of the cultural traditions that were part of your life in 2022. How did they make you feel? What will you take forward for 2023? What will you forgo?


From our work with schools, we’ve learned that often we know one side of our family story more than the other. Make a plan to get to know the uncovered stories of that side of the family story in 2023.


Our adopted community has told us that there’s no other “version” of them that exists in close proximity, in parents, cousins, etc. Using your imagination and investigative skills, what narrative of your past could you create that you want to share with future generations? Tell your story, through your gaze.


Our generation asks “why” behind traditions, versus blindly following them. Make a list of traditions that you do but have no idea why you do them. Ask a family member who might be able to shed light on the tradition.


Find a family member who puzzles you. Reserving judgment, ask them questions about their past using the Root & Seed conversation tool. Following your session, relisten to the stories. What did you learn about them that you didn’t know? Did you just create empathy for that person? Why, yes…yes, you did!


Whatever your year looks like, whatever goals you are in the midst of dreaming up, we hope that understanding your identity is part of 2023. In January, we will be bringing you some new community spotlights, where we shine a light on how understanding your identity through your past can bring confidence, knowledge, and resolution. The right type of resolutions. Here’s to a great 2023!


Do you have ideas to add to the list? Share in the comments below!

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