Sometimes I don’t feel real. Everyone else seems so solid, so complex, and there’s little things that I feel give me away as an impostor. I don’t smoke, never have, and in the middle of winter it feels almost unnatural. I like the way the smoke curls in the air too, even if it fades, like everything else. I’ve tried wearing hats, but they’re merely embellishments, taken off and forgotten. Real people wear hats. People with their lives together. People who know who they are. Who am I, anyway?
The question has been asked so much it almost seems boring to ask it again. A common place. A cliché. Substituting who for what doesn’t help very much either. Writer. Director. Woman. Mexican. Young. Lost? I’ve given up on asking the question because it’s too early in my life to know, and something tells me it will always be too early to know until I’m six feet under. Then it would be the sensible thing for other people to write an epitaph, an obituary, even a biography… but of course, at that point it won’t matter anymore.
I have to make peace with the fact that I’ll never truly know, not if I’m being honest with myself and willing to change. To know what and who I am would be to force myself into a box and cut off the pieces that don’t fit. I suspect many people store away those pieces in their secret drawers, locking them away, even forgetting about them entirely. I understand why. We are walking contradictions, after all, and those contradictions make us suited for doing more than one thing in our lives, professional and personal, the potential to create and destroy.
I suspect that’s what real people do: they choose who they are and they stick to it. It might be the sensible choice, but I’m a nostalgic person, and the thought of certain pieces being forgotten forever doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe that’s precisely why I’ll never settle the parabolic question, and I’ll never know exactly what or who I am.
Identity, after all, only works as a stepping-stone to explore everything else there is. It’s sometimes given before we can choose it, assigned at birth by well-meaning parents or communities. Sometimes we build it from what we hear about ourselves, using other people’s opinions as building blocks, their prejudices as warning signs. Sometimes we try to find it within, but it’s never complete and it’s always temporary. Constructing an identity is finding a balance between willfully forgetting and miraculously remembering, while the world keeps asking unanswerable questions.
Identity is a vessel that helps us navigate the world, and it doesn’t remain unchanged when we use it. Everything changes us: listening to music, writing, talking to people and actually listening, smiling at babies when they look at us like they know something. They don’t, but it’s nice to imagine they see something there. We transform ourselves every time we create something, every time we take a stand for something we believe in, every time we dare to feel anything at all. The world is made to change us, and we are made to change it too.
Everything in life gets us where we’re going, and where we’re going is our choice. We are no one particular thing, but the potential of every single thing at the same time. There is no path laid out for us, only the one we choose for ourselves if we’re brave enough to take that chance.
Maybe brave is what I want to be, and if I am, I’ll be someone else by the end of my journey. Someone real.