Identity Crises

What would draw someone like myself to writing? If I had the answer to that question then perhaps I would know myself better and I would not think of an identity crises. There are certainly privileges to having had an international and multilingual upbringing, to having been exposed to various cultures and religions, and especially to having experienced a fraction of Africa.

There is the other side, too, where I wonder each time I am asked ‘Where are you from?’, how to respond. It is confusing and I find I am at a loss for a clear and simple answer. There is no clear and simple answer. The version I have is detailed and invites many more questions. I go on autopilot and can anticipate the list of questions before they are even asked, so I sometimes reply to that which has not yet been asked.

Know one’s self
But why should identity be important? I believe to know one’s identity is to know one’s self. I am not talking here of borders, nationalities or loyalties. These are irrelevant to me. I am referring to what one identifies with at a deeper level. It has taken me a long time to grasp and understand this issue but identification of one’s self is, from my viewpoint, associated with one’s memories and that environment which one is familiar with. To this end, I would say I am Nigerian as I possess the memories of a rich and fulfilling childhood, which is good enough for me.

I also believe the culture one is born into and subjected to from one’s family is a source which composes one’s identity. From this perspective, I would say I am Syrian as I carry on parts of the language and culture and mannerisms. Finally, I believe that where one’s present state of happiness lies is part of one’s identity in formation. I could therefore equally say I am Dutch. I live in the Netherlands and the woman I love is Dutch.

Need to tell stories
So what have I gained from this crises of identity? I have obviously dissected my different pasts only to reassemble them again into a whole. But there is a difference. I can now say I understand who I am and what I have taken from my experiences. What I have chosen to accept and what I have chosen to ignore.

This reflection gives me the need to tell stories. Not this story, not my story, but I am in my stories nevertheless, just like every writer is, de facto, there is no escaping that. The journey here has been long winded and challenging. It is time to write. Perhaps this is what draws me to writing.

Samir

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