These past few days have led me to ponder the issues of identity, namely my identity. From young I’ve observed people attaching onto labels (Thinker, Leader, Pioneer, anyone?) they identify with in an attempt to make sense of who they are. Companies know this, so they create brands and market their brands as having certain values they want their target market to identify with. We’re no longer sold a product but an experience and an identity through using the product.
Identity is something we try to pursue, to nail down as it constantly eludes us. Every time I ask myself who I am. Or when an interviewer says “tell me about yourself”. Labels come to mind. But none truly explain who I am with enough adequacy. So I’m stuck, likely like countless others, plodding along in life, existing for a period of time. There we are, and there we are no longer.
This past week, when Lee Kuan Yew passed on and Singapore was in 7 days of mourning. I did and felt things I never even thought it possible for myself to do 7000 miles away in London. I shed tears for a man whom I never met. I made my way to the Singaporean Embassy to pen my condolences. For an identity forced upon me, and for 2 years of unwilling National Service that led me to cynicism and a critical view of my country, deep down, I was really just running away from who I was.
Experiences shape and change us. As do ideas, conversations and the people who touch our lives. And days of soul searching have led me to believe:
There is a core of our identity, that doesn’t change barring the most life-changing of circumstances.
But at the penumbral, identity is fluid, and ever-changing. We take up new interests and drop old hobbies. Qualities and traits we identify with flit in and out of our lives.
Labels are unnecessary and transient. Let who you are shape your thoughts, words and actions. And let the changes come and go.
For me, my passions have always been alternative as I shunned the mainstream. The core of which lies in my desire to simply be different, even if it was just for the sake of it. To fit in, simply isn’t me. But that, like any other aspect of me, will probably change.
I took up the name Hugh when I first literally entered the Western world, thinking that people would remember me more easily if I had an English name. But now I realised, it is the impact you make on others that leave a mark, not a name that dissipates like the wind once uttered.
I’m not just a writer, a thinker, a law student, a contrarian wannabe or anything else.
My name is Lim Han Yang. You know who I am.