By M. Fikri Pido* from Indonesia
August 1, 2015
Is it enough to be who you are? Or is there any room left to rethink who you are? The above two questions remained in my mind when I was heading to the dining hall. The class finished on time but my mind was still lingering. The topic of identity seems very personal to me because it deals with the particular unique experience of every person regarding their past, present and the future.
The concept of ‘I’ or ‘self’ consists of various attributes, be it religion, nationality, gender, profession, academic background and many. Yet, are these notions which go beyond static or dynamic? Many scholars mentioned and explained that identity is dynamic due to the fact that changes are normal in life. Dynamic means that identity can be changed just like a man may undergo surgery to become a woman and a Muslim can convert to be Christian.
In an exercise to choose a new identity, I learned how my friends make a choice to fulfill their curiosity and inquiries. Some women want to be men, few want to be an animal, others want to change their religions.
The exercise allows me to reflect that human beings are born with attributes of identity that both are static and dynamic. A person who was born in a Muslim family may someday convert to Buddhism. But a ‘white’ person can never claim that he/she became ‘dark’ or a ‘coloured’ people. In the process of making a choice, I learned that many friends tried to get out of their comfort zone and re-question their current identity by experiencing what it would be like to be the ‘other’.
Every identity gives an opportunity to experience and feel
In my experience, the exercise allowed me to be someone else but still able to closely relate with myself. In this regard, I chose to become my mother. This choice was based on three important points:
One, the role of mother is very central in my life. She is a real superhero whom I always wanted to be. Like many others, I value every single thing that she has contributed in my journey so that I can be who I am today. In this regard, I want to be on her journey and struggle to find authentic insights into what makes her such a ‘strong woman’.
Two, there is a huge need to re-evaluate myself. Being a son to a very caring mother gives me the challenge to contemplate a question ‘What I have done for others?’ as a reflection on what she has done for me. This is also a key to see my relations with her as a fellow human being. My relations with my mother has not always been romantic, it involves ups and downs, just like others. To be in her shoes will enable to me learn about the perspective of parents in the relationship between mother and son.
Three, to connect the dots. Steve Jobs coined this term to illustrate that the past and present are closely related. I want to extend my ‘dots’ in this case to see the future. By reflecting the lessons I learnt from the experience of being my mother in the past and re-evaluating myself in relations with other human beings in the present, I seek to imagine who do I want to be in the future. How I see myself may be completely different from how others perceive me. The gap with regard to the truth about ‘myself’ may be irritating and frustrating, however, it gives us such a priceless reminder that identity is not all about me alone but also about others.
*Mohamad Fikri Pido was a program coordinator at Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) in Bangkok, Thailand from 2012-2015. He obtained his master degree on International Relations from University of Gajah Mada, Indonesia with a thesis on Enemy’s Construction in Jihad.