In English class on Friday, my teacher asked us to write the beginning of a magazine article about the topic of ‘identity’. I first realised how hard this would be when we began trying to simply define identity. Every single dictionary definition is ambiguous, which didn’t help.
Person A thought of identity simply as the list of basic facts that you might find on a passport or ID card. Name, age, place of birth etc.
Person B thought of identity as your physical appearance by which people recognise you.
Person C thought of identity as the fragment of your person which you express to others.
My teacher defined identity as being how others see you and culture as being how you see yourself, but even that doesn’t make it obvious what “identity” includes and besides, we “identify” as things e.g. gay, female, student, teacher etc. which are not only an expression to others, but also about how we view ourselves.
In my EPS class, we talked about the Christian idea of God being one person with three identities as such. We compared this to the idea of a person being a daughter, mother and sister all at the same time.
So is identity a role you take? The sum of facts about you? Is it how you present yourself to others or is it how others see you? I don’t think so.
Identity, to me, is the sum of everything about you. Your identity is who you are and it can’t be separated. That’s why I found it entirely impossible to write about beyond a sentence essentially saying that it is such a big topic that it is impossible to write about.
Identity is so important. It makes you who you are, as I previously said, but it also determines how you deal with things and absolutely everything that ever happens to you or because of you. That’s a pretty massive topic and I would need years and years and centuries to ever possibly talk about it.
I complained to someone about this and they said “make it a smaller topic then”. So I tried.
First, I tried to talk about identities being even more important and public in a new “global” world.
Then I tried just talking about my own identity to hopefully provoke others to talk about their identities.
Next, I tried to talk about the effect of school uniforms on identity in young people.
Finally, I gave up and sat in my chair watching the clock tick-tock until the end of the class. At this point there was, luckily, only about 10 minutes left in the class.
After a couple of days, I think I have found the root of the issue here. It is twofold: firstly, identity is too personal a topic for me to distance myself from it and therefore, secondly, everything about identity is so deeply connected that it is impossible to give the full picture on one issue to do with identity without exploring every other aspect as well. It is an intricate web that doesn’t work properly if even a single strand is broken or removed.
What do you think about identity? How would you describe it?
Thank you for reading, I find it quite hard to write these more personal posts although I want to do it more.