‘Who am I?’ I find myself wondering.
Every time I find myself questioning who I am, I delve into old photographs, looking back at frozen moments in time. A fresh-faced younger me, caught in a slight frown in a candid picture; a younger me posing with a favourite book or smiling next to an old friend; sometimes a younger me looking visibly out of place and trying to fit in; a younger me winning an award for something I worked hard for; random objects like leaves, slippers, clocks and summer skies that I would click pictures of just because I had a camera and I loved to go click-click.
I return to my old photographs time and time again, looking for some small clue; to search for some part of me that has remained constant throughout all these periods of time. It sometimes feels futile to me, and I wonder if I am acting like a burr clinging on to the skirts of the past, while all my friends and peers have moved on, finding their footholds and being comfortable in new identities.
In the past, I definitely had an identity that was afforded to me by the people around me, and it was an identity I liked, so I felt free within it. Now that so much of the world I am in is composed of things I don’t know, and that so much of my daily activities are different from what I thought they would be, it feels like all this structure I used to have is falling away, and I don’t know which of the pieces I want to pick up.
And as I go about my search for identity, a little voice within me reminds me of something I already know – that true identity is subtler than what I think identity is, and I am not going to find it outside me. When I get up from my computer after going down memory lane, I already know that I have moved on in so many aspects from the younger me in those photographs. For good, and for my own good. The question ‘Who am I?’ is a much deeper question than it appears, and cannot be answered by my likes/dislikes, activities and emotions alone.
What I have actually been looking for is an answer to a much less important question, a much more superficial one. ‘Who do I want to be?’
And the answer will not really matter, because it will change as I change.
We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing — an actor, a writer — I am a person who does things — I write, I act — and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
– Stephen Fry