Jan. 4th Who Am I Not?
My life up to today is perfectly sandwiched by two layers. First comes the stern principle of “don’t stand out too much among the crowd and stick to whatever brings you to triumph”. Thanks to my mother, who was a teenager during the heydays of the Cultural Revolution, her pragmatism shaped a version of success that’s constrained to self-sufficiency and simply “living above average”. Then, there is an excessively idealized counterpart, “be whoever you would like to as long as it brings you joy”, which gets reinforced once in a while ever since I embarked on my teenage as it is what America’s been touting as the leader of the free world and thinkers, at least that’s what my father perceived to be true when he first traveled across the Pacific Ocean in 1989.
Hence, I frankly never bothered myself into thinking about the question at all as I have constantly been through the race of obliviously making myself a flawless cog in the giant machine or frantically trying to figure out ways to distinguish myself from other individuals. It’s either putting myself forth that monolith of a goal or scouting unique things that aren’t yet tainted by pop culture. It’s either “Who am I? K” or “Who am I???!!!”, but never “Who am I not?”. In a world (or simulation) where we are accustomed to the euphemism of “it’s always possible if people want to be their true selves”, I avoid or simply forget about acknowledging barriers and what cannot be achieved.
Like any other human being, one thing that I was but no longer claim ownership of was my past self. Mindset, life goal, friend groups, the languages that I speak, favorite genre of music, as well as physique, all of which are dynamic pieces of one’s identity. More so, as someone who graduated from teenhood not too long ago, I cannot help but feel cringe-worthy and greet the 14-year-old self with lampoon whenever I take a retrospective look. I am no longer a zealous kid who vows to start a band that carries on the legacy of My Chemical Romance, spends hours on Minecraft seeking Herobrine, proclaims Noir films are superior after viewing one movie, and dresses in black hoodies 24/7 for no apparent reason. At some point in time, I no longer see the current self as superior or even more mature, due to the fear of being outdated, out-cooled, and out-woked by a future version of self as well as the things that are long lost and I know for certain will trigger nostalgic thoughts sometimes in the future.
Still, I feel gleeful being able to bear a growth mindset for the most part rather than stagnate despite the occasional guilt, generated by the reminder that the core ingredient of betterment is betrayal: we are all traitors to our past. On second thought, how can one grow and develop without constantly metamorphosizing from their past selves? My identity was cast in a trajectory and subjected to free fall at the moment of my nascence: every snapshot has its veracity and denial is far from an option. It’s more saddening than awkward to see the episodic blunders committed by my past self, the same mere annoyance when seeing my little sibling falls for the same old trick once I fell victim to (except I am the youngest child, more powers to imagination). At the end of the day, I still imagine sitting aside by the past self, uttering some words of reassurance, giving him a warm embrace that he may or may or deserve considering how bratty he was as far as I can recall. I rejoice in the fact that I am no longer him and very likely in a better place, yet again, I am glad that I was him.