It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of “identities.” We are “Introverts” and “Single Girls,” “Twenty-Somethings” and “Hopeless Romantics.” We are Carries, and Charlottes, some of us even Samanthas.
But before you judged yourself by these metrics, before you hated your thighs, and counted your exes, and saw yourself through the harsh eyes of what you imagine to be everyone else’s opinions, you were somebody’s newborn child (1), a bright-eyed, mysterious being (2), and the second your mother saw you she was overcome with love, and the need to protect you – you were the center around which the world turned (3). And you were another’s child, too (4). He held you at arm’s length, saw his future in your eyes (5). You were taken to your grandparent’s house, and to them, you were the newest face of their family (6)—maybe the last they would ever see. You were a niece or nephew (7), someone to nanny (8) and to them, you were a burst of joy in their days (9). Even strangers were moved when they saw you in-line at the store (10).
To your siblings, you were ally (11), friend (12) and foe (13). At school, you were both a pest (14) and delight (15). Sometimes when you looked worried, your teacher had to refrain from hugging you with all her might and at those times, you were almost like her own child (16). You learned what it meant to be someone’s best friend (17), had enemies (18), teammates (19), and those who sought your approval (20). You were a nuisance to neighbors (21), the bane of a waiter who knew you’d just order milk and spill (22). You cried in public (23), made handprints on windows (24), and still, to everyone, you were the fresh air of life (25).
You grew up, became smarter than somebody else (26). To your parents, your halo was tested. You were a brat (27), a mess (28) a mouth to feed (29). More than anything, you began to remind them of them, which made you both terrifying (30) and special (31). At some point, you were the victim of somebody’s trick (32), another time, one in a sea of faces that judged the weird kid in class when he spoke (33) – your expression will stay in his mind forever.
Eventually, someone began to notice your gestures and voice in a different light (34). You became someone’s crush (35), the source of extreme anxiety. Soon enough, you were a date (36) and a kiss (37), a person with whom things just might go further (38). You were a teller of secrets (39) a keeper of lies (40), a spreader of gossip (41), (including that one thing that no one should ever have known). You became a consumer (42), once even a thief (43). On busses, you were another person who did or didn’t say thank you (44). You were the party at Table 6 (45) and you left a good tip (46). You were the nervous kid who asked for directions (47), the helpful stranger who held the door (48). You almost cut off someone’s car in traffic (49). You caught someone’s eye because you resembled his niece (50).
Year after year, you took standardized tests, became a statistic (51) from which politicians made points in debates. You were a part-time employee (52), a payer of taxes (53), a percentage of people who didn’t recycle their bottles (54). With money, you became marketing gold (55), with nothing to buy but candy and clothes. You saw yourself reflected in ads, the hot young teenagers smiling with Coke’s in hand (56). You explored identities, “artist” (57), “writer” (58), “punk” (59), “unapologetic slut” (60). You were a sex object (61), even when you didn’t intend or want. You traveled, and thus were resented (62), and envied (63), and seen as a quick source of cash (64). You may even have been a potential victim (65), scoped out for your foreign face (66).
Sooner or later, you became someone’s first, soul-crushing love (67), and then, just like that, you became someone’s ex (68), and somebody else’s (69) and somebody else’s (70). At a show, you were a body pushed into somebody else’s. (71). You were one in a sea of human faces filling the hole in some musician’s sense of self worth (72). You were the person who puked in somebody’s cab, which he quietly cleaned while his wife prepared dinner inside (73).
To your pets, you were life-source, (72) God, (73) and servant (74) in one. A warm lap (75), harsh voice (76), and arm that could hurl a ball (77). One day, you were the angel of death, laying him down on a table with heavy tears (78). To some, you became a leader (79), a position to which they aspired (80), and when you were an underachiever (81) you were another bad influence on them (82).
Now, when you walk around in the world, you are part of the scene on which somebody else projects his life (83) as a minor role (84) as the future lead (85). You’re a reminder of what it felt like to be young (86), a preview of what it will feel like to age (87), a judge of their outfits (88) an inspiration (89), a threat (90). You’re “an example of your ethnicity,” (91), and the reason your generation sucks (92).
And in this very moment, you are a reader (93), a critical thinker (94), someone who takes this piece and filters it through the lens of her life (95) – a free citizen who can share or dislike (96), armed with all your experiences, you are a hundred people (97), a hundred opinions, (98), a piece of the Earth (99), and the love of your mother’s life (100).