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  • Elle Zee

On Identity

Who am I?

On countless occasions I have asked myself this question, as I'm sure many people have. I believe it is the human condition to want both answers and acceptance; this question of identity is an outcry for both.

Yet, as I reflect on the times I've sought the truth of these very things, I find myself struggling for an answer. Or maybe, struggling to accept it.

I've defined myself in many ways: classical pianist, folk singer, dancer, party girl, loner, left-brained, right-brained, stoic, dramatic, musical theater kid, philosopher, activist, victim, survivor, instrumentalist, singer, poet, insurance broker, neurotic, spiritual, teacher, student...

You get the idea.

Even if I look at the three years I've been at Berklee, my identity as a musician has shifted dramatically. I began determined to find fame and recognition as a performing folk singer/songwriter. I latched onto that idea with my whole heart and my whole being. I wanted everyone to know I was a songwriter, both because it meant something to me, and because I had finally found something that I could use to define myself. Something people would think was interesting. But, attention became less important. Connection more so. I invested $50,000 a year into a songwriting degree and decided to become a music therapist and teacher instead - an idea I had at the beginning of my education, but was unwilling to pursue, one that kept creeping its way into my consciousness until I couldn't ignore it anymore.

I doubted myself until I didn't.

On a personal level, I spent years defining myself as someone who struggles, and would always be struggling for "normalcy". I hid my scars until I wore them like badges of honor because I thought they were interesting enough to define me. Then they became less interesting to me. Struggle became less important. Humility and empowerment, more so.

I doubted myself until I didn't.

I grasped layers of my identity tightly because they gave me a sense of stability. A sense of knowing who I was and who would accept me or not accept me. To tell myself I was someone who struggles made struggling easier to an extent; but it also inhibited me from becoming someone who could experience ease.

We wish to define ourselves (and others) so we know where we all stand. To categorize for efficiency. To know, so we can trust more easily.

But what if it wasn't knowing that would help us trust; but trusting that would help us know?

In shedding layers of identity, I have found grief, confusion, fear, and freedom. I have found more layers of identity to shed. I have also found that I can enjoy what I am identifying with in this moment without becoming enmeshed with it to the point that I cannot see what else there is for me to become.

I have found that I have a choice in the matter, and that I can trust myself to choose and to know when that choice is best made.

So, who am I? I still don't know. Maybe I'll decide later.

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