Are you who you are?

Written by Oluwatobi Salami, from Osun State, Nigeria. Oluwatobi describes himself as a “writer by passion, but an accountant by discipline.” Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

The interviewer has his face heavily punctuated with wrinkles, his eyes dart from side to side as you walk in. With all his fingers locked in on themselves and both thumbs rubbing against each other, he doesn’t hesitate to ask,

“Who are you?”

You’re as sure as ever that he has asked every single person who appeared before him the same question, but you can understand why. So, you pour yourself out to the panel of interviewers from what your name is to everything else you think defines you. What you will never understand is why he throws the very next question after you answered the first.

“Hold on, are you who you are?”

“Pardon?”

“I said, are you who you are?”

“Ermmm, sir, can you please ask the question in a different way?”

“No.”

That is a true story.

Every day, you and I and everyone else answer the question of who we are right off the top of our heads. That is more because we have always known the answer, from the smallest of details to the biggest of them. So, it gets even easier to answer that question the more times we are asked.

But we have a little argument, one that we should resolve here together.

Michel Foucault said: “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” I don’t want to remind you that this man was a French philosopher and a literary critic. In fact, I won’t remind you, so that we both won’t be scared of putting a red ink on his paper.

I have questions that beg for answers: Is it really possible to focus on becoming someone else when what you are right now is unknown? Can a person really not know who he is? And finally, are you who you are?

Answering the first question would not be so hard for a blind man.

“Sir, please take these three bottles of poster colors. Mix any two or all three and give me an entirely new color. I know you’re blind and you do not know what colors I have already mixed. So, tell me, sir, can you change it to a color that it was not in the beginning, without knowing what color is here right now?”

You know his answer would be ‘yes’. Oh, did I remember to mention that all three colors are white? Now, how does a blind man make another color from the combination of three whites? I do not know. When what you are right now is unknown, becoming someone else is possible.

But, can a person really not know who he is?

Let us put medical conditions aside and focus on normality. This question, I think, is very broad because it encompasses the whole idea of what a person’s identity is. But, on a very basic level, every sane person knows what his name is or what he is called. He knows what kind of things he likes and what he hates. He knows what he can and can’t do. He knows, in short, who he is.

But, with my fingers still locked in on each other, permit me to ask, “are you who you are?”

A very good number of teenagers graduate from high school every year with frequently changing decisions about what they intend to study in the university. The reason lies in that same question above.

It is without doubt that at every stage in an individual’s life, the answer to “who are you?” changes unapologetically. The change occurs so frequently that it may just have happened again, right now. For example, I have a degree in Accounting. But just before I graduated from the university, my focus had shifted, and I do not have as much enthusiasm for my profession as I had in the past. Right now, I first say “I am a writer” before adding, “oh yes, and I have a degree in accounting.”

Is this true of you?

However, we must remember that change is not optional and funny enough, an attempt to evade change is in itself an attempt to change a natural process. As Foucault said, “the main interest… is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”

The interesting truth is: no matter what we do, we can never always be as same and unchanged as the title above even when it is read from right to left.

131 comments on “Are you who you are?

    • Justice Mandy on

      Logical manner of presenting material, I must commend. You sustained my attention and presented this in a very conversational manner.

      And, you know, the moment you turned your attention on education, I fell in love with the whole thing. It’s true that focus, educationally, can swerve. And yes, it happened to me.

      “…and an attempt to evade change is in itself an attempt to change a natural process.” I will not forget.

      Reply
    • emmanuelaanuoluwapo on

      The ink flowing from your pen is quite extraordinare. This work is a clear depiction of brilliancy and talent put together.

      Reply
    • Shuab Mohud on

      The changing discoveries of who you are and how it relates to your educational pursuits is quite disturbing. I agree. I learned to repair motorcycles from my dad and soon I thought I should be an engineer. So I studied engineering. It was after two years into the course that I knew that it wasn’t a blessing.

      I should have studied computer science instead. Well, what matters in the end is becoming someone I wasn’t.

      This work is enlightening. Very enlightening.

      Reply
  1. Morgan McCoy on

    You started off with a vibe that got me pinned. And then, you pinned me down completely with the concluding lines.

    Your writing is well articulated; from its title to its message. How come I don’t recognize your name? Thank you, NUHA, for revealing a great writer. Publish a book soon, please.

    Reply
  2. Maryann Ifunanya Igwe on

    Wow. The question of ‘who we are’, is what we can’t really answer off easily. We just have to be who we think we are.

    This is a wonderful read with an intriguing topic.

    Reply
  3. Omere Anthony on

    I’m not a fan of long written stories
    I’m yet to understand how you got me pinned throughout this

    Nice nice nice bro
    Greater heights

    Reply
  4. Adetoki Pelumi (Pehllz) on

    I got tossed and turned emotionally right from the theme down till the end of the write up..Man what a solidified piece you’ve got here….I hope NUHA helps promote a great Masterminded like you.

    Reply
  5. Favour 😁 on

    Man!! This is it, this is just it…
    You know, I’m careful to say that this is perfect but what more can I say..

    This is just too good man, you are going places…

    Reply
  6. Wisdom Adebayo on

    This is so true and I guess youths can relate more. Whenever we learn a new skill, we picture all the great things we could become in our heads so much that we forget all that we were before. So when I take a nice picture, I think to myself, “Oh, I could go on to become a professional photographer and make so much money, I’m that good.” And then tomorrow when I paint a really beautiful picture, I would think of all I could become as an artist.
    The truth, as you have said is that we usually don’t know exactly what we want. But that’s not a bad thing.

    I really love this. Thanks for the beautiful read.

    Reply
    • Itoro Jones on

      This is more than passion, this is #Tobisalami himself
      Writing itself is Tobi and Tobi is writing.
      You have it in you bro
      My heart goes out for this work👍👍👌

      Reply
    • Trisha on

      Phenomenal. My lecturer once asked a question “who are you? ” and the answer given was “I am……. ” he said “you do not know yourself “. You’ve just given me a free “expo” . Thank you for this.

      Reply
  7. Eti-ido Akpaettim on

    I thought about this yesterday and you just brought that thought back. I keep thinking of the kinda person i am. Like you rightly said, it changes……change is a constant thing. I can sure relate with this.

    This article is really thought provoking. And until we find who we truly are, i guess we’re just going with the flow of life.

    Kudos to a beautiful writeup Tobi.

    Reply
  8. Godwins on

    The question got me fast. And in a minute I was already reading the last line. A masterpiece. Highly philosophical and intriguing.

    Tobi Salami is got this difference. A captivating difference…in writing. I knew you’d come this far, and even further!

    Reply
  9. Amaobi Uche on

    How he holds your attention from the very beginning to the end!
    With everyline, you know he has something else to say, something you have to see.

    It is all things good and beautiful!

    Reply
  10. Tobiaz Goodluck on

    There is simply no answer to this question.
    since some day we’ll become who we weren’t.

    this is a great Article
    Tobi.

    Reply
  11. Theddy Theddy Theddy on

    A great token of knowledge and a better understanding of oneself all offered in a perfect article mould, “keep up the good spirit” the world need more of such.

    Reply
  12. Heazy Black on

    A lady asked me, who am I l? Recently and I couldn’t even answer! But this piece has shed more light on some areas I haven’t even been paying attention to. This is great Tobi. I pray you win

    Reply
    • Bukola on

      Lovely piece. I loved your choice of words and how easy it was for not so poetic minds like me to grasp what message you were trying to pass. And the last sentence got me. Went back to the topic and saw truly either read from right or left you’re still left with the same question. Kudos to you Tobi. Keep it up!

      Reply
  13. Mfon Essiet on

    A compelling writing on self, identity and an evading self. The truest ever response to who we are, is a step towards a celebration of our personhood…

    Reply
  14. Hope Higgins on

    How do you do this? Damn! This piece is well crafted; beautifully painted, and totally enlightening… Thank you! Thank you NUHA!!

    Reply
  15. Humble Dhayor on

    Wow, that’s why everyone loves your work. I enjoyed reading this one. You’re amazing. Keep up the good writing spirit.

    Reply
  16. Akanbi Taofeek on

    a brilliant and awesome writeup worthy of all the praises, expressed simply arranged professionally and painted artistically……. well Tobi Salami

    Reply
  17. Joshua Sodiq on

    “The interesting truth is: no matter what we do, we can never always be as same and unchanged as the title above even when it is read from right to left.”
    That line got me thinking. Good job man!

    Reply
  18. Annie on

    I enjoy your presentation, it always thought provoking, especially this, made me realize so many changes in my life lately, also I again recognize that change is constant in all areas of our lives.

    Reply
  19. Ayodele Gift on

    Wow this is interesting.. and very true.. because at each stages in life your personality changes…I love this piece cus it realistic…

    Reply
  20. Jennifer Anthony on

    Very well written, I must emphasize; I enjoyed reading this. You have an excellent gift of carving and weaving emotions into your narration.
    Well done, my friend, well done.

    Reply
  21. Star Jeffries on

    This writing is as perfect as the writer himself. More ink to your pen so don’t stop half way. You’re an amazing writer.

    Reply
  22. Santiana Bolins on

    I find it a real challenge to stick to just one thing educationally. I’m usually tempted to do everything, you know, touch everything. Sometimes I feel like I’m just greedy, but today, I feel like I’m just doing the not-optional thing (changing constantly). Thank you so much.

    …and yes, you see that thing you did with the title and how you tied it to the whole work, it’s the most brilliant thing I’ve seen done in any article here.

    Reply
  23. Humphrey Victoria on

    Wow.

    Quite an enlightening read, well penned down.

    It’s only natural to evolve, so does who we are……“the main interest… is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”
    Very true

    Reply
  24. Esther on

    Great piece, Tobi. It exemplifies a very needful feature of the human nature: change. It means, at one point in our lives, it is required that we concede to needful and useful change.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  25. Abdulbasit Suleiman on

    Perhaps I’ve been asking myself this very question, “Are you who you at?”, since I was a kid and till now I’d be lying point blank if I said I’ve been relieved of the burdens to answering the question.

    Well, all that doesn’t matter now. If I can try to be the best I can be, I will keep being the best version of myself.

    Reply
  26. Emilia Clarkeson on

    This work is timely. I love the fact that it shed light on why I keep changing my mind about what I intend to study in school. I feel bad sometimes.
    Now I know what has been happening.

    Reply
    • Trisha on

      “who do people say I am?” he asked. My lecturer once asked a question “Who are you?”. It was difficult to answer. I think you’ve given me a clip. Thank you so much.

      Reply
    • Divine Onyekwena on

      Are you who you are? is a scarier question than, who are you?
      I think I didn’t really answer it throughout the time I read this. Wow. This is really beautiful.

      Reply
  27. Ofodile Godsent chinua on

    We’re sealed canons with cryptic codes
    Our lives are spent unlocking these codes…
    Hmmmm, logical masterpiece 🙌🙌

    Reply
  28. Heiress Omoh on

    Now, you see why I call him exceptional though he often objects.

    Anyways, you did drive home your point.

    Growth and subsequent development of an individual leads him to changes.

    Learning to critically analyse these changes and make valuable conclusion is expedient.

    Keep writing, bro.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  29. Nkay Oliver on

    You’re always unique bro!

    “Indeed no matter what we do, we can never always be as same and unchanged as the title above even when it is read from right to left”.
    I have learnt..thanks.

    Reply
  30. Star Orok on

    This is educative and interesting at the same time. You just touched a path where people hardly travel on. I have really learnt something new, and I’m left with the thought of who I really am. Thank you Tobi Salami. Keep writing.

    Reply

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