Somewhere along the gutters of Broadway, perhaps the alleyway behind the office, or tacked to a dartboard is my reporter badge. I can’t say precisely when it happened, but there came a day when I lost something I couldn’t live without — my identity.
If the latter sounds familiar, then you have an appreciation for SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons or have little ones. The wacky sponge who lives under the sea where humorous chaos generally ensues. High quality, pinky fingers out, entertainment, I assure you with a knowing wink. Something I miss now that my kids are teenagers but still occasionally imbibe in for a good laugh or three.
The identity episode is a favorite. It begins with SpongeBob looking forlorn over a cup of coffee in a local café. There’s something endearing about those few first frames as another customer realizes and announces he’s lost his pen. A nearby waitress obliges him with a pen tucked into her hair. Noting this exchange, our favorite yellow sponge morosely states, “I lost something once. I lost something I couldn’t live without — my identity.” The serious manner in which it is said to an audience knowing full well it will only lead to hijinks is part of the endearing comedy. Spongebob proceeds to flashback to a Monday morning that doesn’t go according to plan, and when he finally ends up at work discovers he hasn’t his name badge. He determines it must be out there lost, hungry, and possibly being used for nefarious purposes such as robbing a bank. In a panic, he begins to retrace his steps. He is nothing and no one without his identity.
I did similar upon the realization I’d lost my badge, but more along the line of tired aggravated acceptance. I am no spring chicken, so lost item moments grow by the day. There was, of course, a lot of riffling through desk drawers followed by searches in pockets and purse before a peek through the desk once more. There’s that certainty that a lost item has to be right beneath one’s nose like the time I was searching for a pen in the courtroom — found secured between my teeth.
I retraced steps at work and home but no badge. Similar to SpongeBob, I wondered if my badge was out there, hangry (not a misspelling), or being used for a nefarious purpose such as — well — certainly not to rob a bank. However, I did note a general theme surrounding identity that moved well beyond a lost badge. There had been several recent interviews that included an elder caregiver now in need of care, former school workers at an unexpected out-of-school crossroads, and others with yours truly repeating the same statement, “It’s hard to give up an identity.”
Our identity tends to fall into two separate areas – jobs and family — that could fall victim to change and feel like the proverbial rug ripped out from beneath us. It could be a retirement, pink slip, death, or divorce that culminates in a loss of who we are. It is a lost identity that is so intriguing with its bevy of hats and painful but valuable lessons. For example, a gentleman once asked city leaders, “Don’t you know who I am?” There came a slow, silent shake of heads in the negative, followed by the heavy fall of the inquirer’s shoulders.
Titles, identities, whatever you may call it, should not define us, given how fleeting some of them may be, Buddhists consider it a groundlessness, to never feel too secure in the status quo. Still, it is hard to accept change, sort of like a lost name badge. I never did find mine, but SpongeBob had more luck, and what enfolds provides an interesting way we should perhaps look at our hard framed self. His story ends with the discovery his shirt was on backward with his badge attached the entire time.
Haven’t we all had such a Monday morning or three?
Back in the café, the waitress and the other customer have long since grown bored. The waitress looks to her watch and says at least the story did manage to kill eleven minutes. SpongeBob chuckles, and looks to the waitress’ name badge to thank – “Betty.”
“What? Oh, sweetie, I’m not Betty,” says the waitress. “I just borrowed her uniform while mine’s at the cleaners.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.