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Identity: The Puzzle and The Artist

Identity. It’s a strange thing. We humans are the only organism doomed to the curse and gift of this phenomenon. We are self-conscious, perhaps too self-conscious in some ways, for what does it mean to have found your identity? To be able to look in the mirror and say this is me?

Sometimes it feels like I’m not necessarily looking for my identity but a part of myself. The last piece of my existence. But at the same time, it also feels like a façade, because what does it matter once I know exactly who I am? My life is not going to change. Neither will the world and neither will my habits disappear like snow in the sun.

Yet this need hungers in me for that last piece of the puzzle, for an explanation for an answer to this infinite question of who I am. Perhaps we are not the answer to the question, but identity is the question itself. Somehow it seems that our identity must forever remain a question, an unreachable point on the horizon of our existence. Both a curse and a gift of never knowing exactly who we are in our essence. A puzzle created to be incomplete.

In my life I’ve had periods, an eureka moment where I raised my hand and screamed. THIS IS ME! But as soon as the wheel of time turned past the conclusion, the answer also faded. Then I was back to square one so that the cycle could play again from the beginning.

But as I get older, I wonder if an answer to the question is needed. Because at the same time, knowing exactly who you are feels hindering. As if you are a prescribed character locked in the boxes of who calls you, well you. Isn’t there something beautiful in not knowing exactly who you are, something mysterious, but at the same time it brings me a sense of incompleteness. That missing puzzle piece.

For 3 years I avoided writing, reading, playing guitar. Basically, any kind of hobby or art, culture or self-reflection. For 3 years that was the shape of who I was. And now I have a longing for life that I never expected back. That’s creepy. But This is who I am now. At least part of it. But I don’t know what my interests are in 3 years, but this is who I am at the moment. In short, there is no identity resistant to time. And strangely enough, I’m happy about that, it makes me more dynamic and diverse. It makes life interesting and unpredictable on the one hand, and my actions impulsive. Especially now in the bloom of individualism and the fading of religion, our identity is increasingly in our own hands.

We are given the reins to decide for ourselves who we are. There is no longer a god telling you how or what to be. There is no manual, no Ikea step-by-step plan, no standard procedure.

This makes us free, but at the same time we also get more and more pressure of the responsibility of our existence. We will have to be the artists of our own lives.

The painters who give colour, the poets who romanticise it. And the dancers, who bring the euphoria to it. You yourself are that blank canvas and you must continue to pay attention to it. Create and destroy, create and destroy, create and destroy. This will be my mantra.

So next time you’re wondering who you are, just shrug and mumble, say or yell “Fuck it” because all that matters is that you are what you are. It doesn’t matter who you are. You are, you exist, you live and you change. This is who we all are and at the same time the way you do it is unique. We are all the same because we are all different and are different because we are the same.

About the Author
Thom Wijnhorst is 27-year history teacher and retro gaming streamer on Twitch. With his Dutch perspective, he isn’t afraid to write articles that really make you think.

This article (Identity: The Puzzle and The Artist) originally appeared at Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.

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