Who am I?

Who am I?

A few week ago, I saw an advertisement about running shoes. In that short clip, one lady said “I love running. It’s who I am.” The ad that was supposed to lure me into buying shoes tilted my mind to existential thoughts: who am I and what makes me, me?

“Who am I?”

I do like running but definitely not as much as the lady in the advertisement. So running was off the table. I love Mathematics, so can I say “I love Math, it’s who I am?” I cannot – I decided not to actively pursue Math after college. What about writing? I certainly love that. That is who I am, right? Well, not really. Just a quick glance at my blogsite reveals this cannot define me. Even so, there has to be something that defines me, not so?. Maybe my Nationality. I am Zambia, aren’t I? Is it not who I am?

“Who am I?”

Moving to a country where most people look, behave, eat, and live differently from what one is used to naturally brings a period of contemplation on one’s idendity. This is because when you look at most people, you will know you are not them. So who have to be someone else. But who?

For me, my first move abroad did not necessarily raise these questions. It was until I moved to the Netherlands that I got confronted with these issues. I was now living in a country where majority of the people are white and I was also attending a college where I was one of two black boys on campus. Everyone around me had a different skin tone, different accent, and most of them were much taller. Additionally, most of them put chocolate on toast. And no, not chocolate spread. Just something else that will go unnamed for now.

“Who am I?”

I guess this is the dark side of moving abroad that is rarely discussed – identity crisis. The feelings of neither belonging to the country where you were born nor the country were you are currently residing. The feelings of not belonging to a country that one has moved to need not be elaborated further. The feeling of not belonging to your home country are great. Your home country soon becomes a country you visit a few weeks in a year or two and when you go back, you are treated like a visitor. You look at people and they have all changed, everything has changed. You have also changed. The sense of never being at home anywhere is real and unsettling. Longing for a sense of community and belonging, it is only a matter of time before one asks “where do I belong?” Soon after, air molecules carrying the words “who am I?” will resonate from the same person’s mouth.

“Who am I?”

Deep down, something whispers within us that there has to be a point where one can and should place their locus of identity. An external locus – identifying one’s self based on external factors such as wealth, careers and fame is disastrous to say the least. So does that mean we have to look within ourselves to find who we are? Do we look at our abilities, skills and talents? Do we look at what makes us laugh or angry to determine who we are?

“Who am I?”

If we do, what happens when those things change or become unavailable? What happens when age catches up and one becomes unable to run or play football? What happens when someone gets involves in an accident, losing the ability to perform what they were once good at? What happens when the people in whom we found our identity – the people who defined us, are not there anymore? Do we lose our identity? Do we become another person? Or maybe, simply put, do we just grow?

Is there something that we can see in each person, regardless of ethnicity, skin tone or height that we can also find in ourselves? Doesn’t a (potential) bonding agent exist in everyone such that we can be part of a community even if our physical attributes are different from every else’s? Isn’t there someone who is unchanging and everlasting that we can look at and set our locus of identity on them? Is there not an overarching identity where our passions and skills can be hinged and consquently find meaning? Perhaps the question of “who am I?” is intricately intertwined with the question of “whose am I?” Perhaps it when we know whose we are that we can tell who we are.

“Whose are you?”

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