On several occasions, I’ve found myself in a somewhat ironic situation. I meet someone new, we exchange courtesies and then the regular ‘Q&A’ starts back and forth. However, it’s usually not until ten minutes later at best, after we’ve discussed my nationality, age, occupation, what I think about Putin (well, that’s a Russian specialty) that people finally get round to asking my name. I’ve had this happen during student group assignments, personal communication and academic symposia. In this world, what you do apparently matters much more than who you are.
But who are you, really? Paradoxically, this obsession with achievements and status in our meritocratic society goes hand in hand with an unrivalled desire for identity. Nowadays, everyone is supposed to look within themselves to find their unique self and then to cultivate it, cherish it and stand up for it.
I’m obviously not entirely comfortable with this fervent pursuit of ‘exclusive’ identity. But to be frank, I’m not a fan of more conventional labels either. This month, I’m having a knee-jerk reaction every time someone mentions International Women’s Day. I’ve never particularly identified with my gender. Now, that’s not to say that I feel like a boy or that ‘’I’ve been born into a wrong body’’.
This is simply to underscore that by answering ‘’I am Russian’’ or ‘’I am a student’’ or ‘’I am a woman’’, you are narrowing down your vision. Yes, identity may be useful in our globalised world, where people are constantly moving around and each of us plays several roles every day. Not to mention the fact that being able to identify with a group can create a sense of belonging that most of us desire in this alienated urban landscape.
Be that as it may, don’t worry if you haven’t yet found your identity. It’s more important to have a centre within yourself where you feel grounded. Once you have that, whichever label is attached to you or gets ripped off (which is another frequent occurrence and which typically leads to personality crises), you’ll be able to more openly welcome external circumstances rather than get cemented in internal stickers.