Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Identity Formation

So I’ve been listening to a lot of this online talk show called “Off Camera” ( lately. It’s unlike most talk shows I have ever seen because the feeling you get when you watch/listen to each episode is that you’re watching or listening to two people having a real life conversation over some tea in the host’s living room or something. I chanced upon it while exploring Youtube, and it’s currently my favourite thing on the internet. Check it out if you like listening to people have real life, in-depth conversations about their passions.

I was listening to the conversation between the host (Sam Jones) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I found JGL to be such a genuine and admirable human being in the way he talks about his projects and his feelings about things and the way he talks about the people he’s worked with and the people he cares about. They also covered a project JGL was the head of in the conversation, which is HitRECord ( It’s an online community site where people can upload and remix stuff other people have uploaded onto the site in an effort to make stuff collaboratively. It’s been around since 2005, and a genius idea, really. Check it out if you’re a creative person of any kind.

And while listening to JGL talk and stuff, I found myself having this thought of wanting to be like him. Not only do I want to act, I want to explore stuff, ideas and stories and concepts and what-have-yous. I also want to create something that will benefit the society, to provide a platform for people to explore and have fun and create things and discover things about themselves. Ultimately, I guess, I want to make a difference. And I feel that JGL has been able to become a person that has made a difference, and yet, still exploring stuff that intrigues him and might be able to make a positive difference in the world, without him actually saying it out loud.

And as I was thinking that, I also thought about how we build our identities. I remember seeing a t-shirt a dude was wearing that I saw while walking back home from a class in uni which read something to the effect of “Nothing of you is original. You are an amalgamation of everything you have experienced in your life thus far.” Yes, it was a wordy t-shirt, but I think I got the gist of it. Even though I just saw this shirt in passing, it has stuck to my mind ever since, and I was reminded of it again this morning when thinking about building identities. 

The way I see myself making my own identity is exactly that. I build an identity for myself by taking from other people traits that I admire about them, and leaving out traits that I find displeasing, and it’s these bits and pieces of various people that forms my identity. They don’t even have to be real people, mind you. 

I remember reading a Jeffrey Archer book, and in that book there was this scene where the protagonist was waiting for a guest. The protagonist intentionally arrived at the meeting place twenty minutes early and said to himself something to the effect of “a person is either five minutes early, or five minutes late. Never on time.” He wanted to see whether his guest was the late type or the early type. Tengok-tengok the guest came exactly on time, not late, not early, so this threw the protagonist off. I remember thinking to myself after reading that bit “aku pun nak jadi orang yang not early nor late. Aku jadi had jenis on time!” And to this day I try to keep to that trait that I found admirable in that fictional character.

I guess the biggest influence on my identity since the inception of me has been my father (if you couldn’t already tell from this blog’s URL). I’ve always looked up to him and tried hard to live up to the standards that he set while I was growing up. He had his ideals, and he would sometimes voice those ideals, and I would latch on to them pretty good.

But of course, living in the world we live in, it would be pretty hard not to be exposed to other people. I remember being in school and listening to my friends badmouth somebody and saying this that and the other about a certain somebody and I remember making mental notes to myself saying “don’t do that” or “don’t be like that dude”, because being liked was a big thing when you’re a teenager (still a big thing now, I suppose).

By the time the house had good internet, I started widening my scope of influence to include so many people, I can’t even list them down because I don’t know where to begin. The latest one would probably be JGL, but I just finished listening to an Off Camera conversation with Matt Damon, so I found a thing or two to lift from there too.

I don’t know how other people form their identities, but I have a hunch that it’s more or less the same kind of thing too. The difference between people is who they allow to influence their identities and who they don’t. We are all the same in the sense that we’re all amalgamations of our own experiences, and we are all unique in a sense that no two people’s experiences are the same. And I guess there’s some comfort to be had there.

No comments: