‘Interim – Who am I?’
Who am I?
It was a question that obsessed me as a kid – I was lying inside a cardboard box in the backyard staring up at the sky, maybe all of four-years-old, when it first occurred to me. But it really harangued me when I was ten or eleven. Usually, it would get to me when I lay in bed. Or just when I was sitting around. Any time I wasn’t distracted, really. My mind would turn inward, ask the question, and try to peel away the layers to get to the truth – whatever that might’ve been.
There are the obvious answers, the labels you get growing up. For instance, it’s easy to say, ‘My name’s Joe Blow, this is who I am.’ But all that’s all that is: the label of a name. This isn’t who you are. It’s just an identifier, like a name-tag on a piece of luggage to distinguish you from the rest of the luggage riding the carousel at the airport.
It’s equally as easy to say, ‘I’m an accountant’ or ‘I’m a teacher’ or ‘I’m a writer’, or whatever your job (or aspiration) may be, but that’s not who we are; nor are we ‘a husband’ or ‘a wife’ or ‘a father’ or ‘a mother’, or any of these familial duties. They are things we do.
But most people never wonder beyond the labels they accumulate. They’re happy for those labels to distinguish and embody them, and they go to school, to work, function in everyday society with other like-labelled people, and everything’s fine, because that’s what you do. You run on autopilot. You delve beyond (or below) the labels. Why would you? Especially as a kid, who should be playing and watching TV and worrying about how to entertain the next moment.
Why would you wonder who you are?
How you came to be?
What you were doing here?
If you could be born into life and never be given a name, never require an occupation, or a role, who are you? If you stripped yourself bare of all these things, if you could float free of physicality, free of definition, free of any personification, what’s left? Who’s left? And who’s that?
There are answers tied up in religion and souls, or that we are here for a purpose, but it still didn’t make sense to me. Or we could leave it to science, and say we’re a bundle of atoms and molecules. But neither answered what was I doing here, as this person, in this life, at this moment. Even if I had a purpose, who was I to have that purpose? If it was just totally random, meaningless, why did it make … me?
The curiosity interwove deep into me, burrowing, this unanswerable question, until it welled up like a restlessness, an uneasiness, in my chest and I had to shake, literally shake, like I had to shrug off the thought, the probing, this incomprehensible self-awareness, and I had to dispatch of it before it drove me mad.
Who am I?