(But really, it’s written about a year ago. I’m a worse writer then. You can back out now.)
Who am I?
A question that continues to haunt man since time immemorial. But what is it that keeps him from finding the answer to that ever daunting question?
It asks not only your name or age but what makes you an individual, a separate entity and not just a statistic in an ever expanding society. If I tell you ʽI am Jenny, 19, and still a student’, can you say that you already know me?
So the question remains – who am I? I am me. But another question follows. What makes me me? That is the most difficult part. For you see, I can say that I am a daughter, a son, a student, a Christian, an artist, an atheist, a Democrat, a Republican, a Muslim, a Russian, an anarchist, a loyalist, a scholar, a rebel, a doctor, an actor, a goth, a homosexual, blah, blah, and blah…
Those are things that you can also say for about a hundred million other people. It does not define you as a separate being. They’re merely labels. And the truth about labels is that they are used not with individuals but to categorize people.
Or divide. Maybe both.
Now one may argue that he can be a Christian and a Goth, while another could only be the former and not the latter. So that defines him from another person, eh? Having a label that the other person does not share. But that is all too generalized. Can that person say with conviction that he is the only Goth Christian in the planet? Not.
And so the question remains, what makes a person an individual? How do you answer the question ‘Who am I’?
The easiest and the laziest way to answer would be to say that you are a nobody, which is an utter lie in itself because a person is always a somebody to someone else, even if it’s not for everybody. Even a tramp that society labels as a nobody is a somebody to someone else – a long-lost friend, a mother, a son, a lover.
Specifics. Yes! At last, you say to yourself, I have already found the right way on how to answer that question. I’m going to flood them all with specifics about myself.
I am Juan Miguel Madrid y Saavedra, 21 years old, 5’8” tall, 158 lb, a junior mechanic. My parents are Ricardo and Cecilia Madrid and my two older sisters are Anastacia and Isabella Madrid. I have lived all my life in Havana and I don’t plan of moving anywhere else. I am in love with a girl working in a paladar near the shop where I work and I plan to marry and have 2 children with her. I am and will be a mechanic for the rest of my life because that is all that I ever know how to do. I was born on the shores of this land and this is where I intend to be buried. So there, now you know me and you cannot say that there is another person on this planet who can say the same words as I have. Now you know who I am.
True, there may not be another Juan Miguel Madrid y Saavedra the Mechanic in the planet, but is that all there is to it with that person? Is that all he is? A resident of Havana who plans to have a family and be a mechanic for the rest of his life and after which reside six feet under his birth soil – is that all?
Why do we have to complicate everything? Why do we have to force him to say more about himself if that is his own understanding ?
“I must find a truth that is true for me . . . the idea for which I can live or die” as Søren Kierkegaard, the first writer to ever call himself existential (Wiki says!), has stated. Yes, it may pertain to a discussion about morality but it also rings true to a question of identity. It is never the society’s task to define a person but only the person’s own. The question who am I can only be answered by the individual because it is he who experiences his life. Society may set traditions and norms, but it is up to the individual to follow or head the other way.
For one, an environment in which a person lives in may be brutal and unforgiving, and yet it does not necessarily mean that the people living in such a place would turn out to be the same. One person may turn out to be an adapter – cold, harsh, and eternally suspicious, while the other may be a dissenter – warm, gentle, and trusting.
That is what sets the two apart, their own choices. One chooses to survive in his environment by means of adaptation, he can only survive if he takes in the characteristics that his environment requires. If I live in an environment where everyone is hostile to one another and is constantly judgmental and only seeks personal gratification and individual advancement, then I cannot allow to be swallowed whole by the situation. I have to be cold so their hostility could not affect me, nor could their judgments. I would not care less. And in a milieu where everyone seeks to trample and rise above the other, I should be suspicious to anyone’s actions. That is the only way to survive.
The other however disagrees with conforming and chooses to do the opposite – he dissents. If I am surrounded with people who treat everyone as an opponent, as a threat, then I have to be warm and live without competing with them. If I do that, then eventually they would see how I am not a threat. And eventually, if all goes for the best, then they would stop treating everyone as a threat. Yes, it may not always be true with everyone but you can’t help but influence one or two or more people because of how you treat and interact with them. I chose to be different because I want change. And I can’t just wait for it to happen. If no one would, then I will start with myself. And it will show to the people I meet. Maybe they will follow and maybe they will not. But I can’t just stand and live in a world that repulses me. If I want it to change then I have to do something. That is the only way I can truly say I have lived.
Both have made a choice, though similar they are not. But it is clear they have decided on a certain course of action for which they can live with, and it will reflect on the kind of person each would turn out to be.
So would it be safe to say that what shapes a person is his own choices? Perhaps.
But like everything else, it is subject to the big C. CHANGE.
So back to the question: “Who am I?”.
Personally, I am yet to discover that. But the good thing is I know where to look for the answers. And even with that knowledge I still can’t find the ultimate answer in the present because the place where I look for is constantly changing, trivial or otherwise – myself.
And even then, one must be open to the possibility that he may never achieve a satisfactory answer to that question for as long as he may live. But tell me, do we really have to know? Or do we just have to accept the idea that there are things that exist which are beyond one’s understanding and the best way to deal with it is to just live and savor the experience while it is still there? If meaning is what we sought after, then searching might be futile if we only limit ourselves to that which is tangible, to that which tries to explain, to human reasoning. Shouldn’t we then accept the idea that there are things our human minds will never understand, that are reserved only for the understanding of a higher sort?
Ah, Life. I can’t help but agree with the character Alyosha when he says, “We must love life more than the meaning of it”. Why can’t we just live without questioning everything? Or rather, live and question, but never despair if you won’t find the answer? Do we question the meaning of our lover’s existence or do we just continue on loving them?
I believe we may find the greatest experience of bliss in the latter.
Questions, questions…sometimes these things are enlightening. But it is faith even amongst unanswered questions that really sustains.
So who am I? I am me, but what makes me me I can’t tell you yet. I do know one thing though. I choose to live. And as much as possible, I choose to be happy.
Look at the choices you’ve made, and think about the ones you’re about to make, then maybe you will find the answer as to who you really are. Or maybe not.
But at least you will know what you want.
Image Sources here.