I am writing this as I’m taking a break from packing all my belongings in a large suitcase, seeing all the things I’ve accumulated over the past few years. I am moving out of my unit this end of April--the end of my two-year lease in this studio and a four-year stay in this building.
It’s strange and a bit surreal to see all my possessions unravel, the way my whole life is summarized by the objects and trinkets I've accumulated.
That shirt belonged to an ex. This magazine, I bought on a whim. There’s a book that’s still unread, gathering dust at the bookshelf. A defective portable bank that has helped me survive a lot of days talking to my friends and loved ones on my mobile phone. A plant that hasn’t survived the summer season, still in the balcony.
Slowly, I come to the realization that they all have once been pegs of my identity. I have curated my life in such a way that these material things reveal parts and parcel of myself, if only fleetingly.
Some things, I choose to keep. Some things, I no longer identify with, and thus let go.
I was having a conversation with my boyfriend Charz about this. In my letter, I asked him this:
“When they say that you should love yourself, who is that 'you’ that you should love, exactly? Do I only love the good parts in me? Am I not the totality of the bad and the good? Isn’t that who I am?
Who am I, ultimately? Who is this ‘I’?”
Who is this “I”, indeed?
I’m not the first to philosophize about the concept of self. Without doubt, there are better discourses on the topic.
Personally, I have struggled with creating a definitive explanation of who I am. To assign labels, and identify with these labels, can be a limiting experience.
In college, I used to say: I wanted to be someone who lives for himself, outside others. A person who doesn’t limit himself by what others think or say or do.
I was argumentative. I was defiant. I was building my universe according to my rules.
A so-called self-made man.
But as I grow older, and hopefully wiser, the idea becomes somewhat ludicrous. No one truly is a self-made man. We are the by-product of the peoples, histories, and environments around us, and our so-called original thoughts and beliefs do not exist in a vacuum.
Along the way, some of us just forget or omit.
Out of all these intellectual exercises (and cognitive dissonances), the lesson that I want to regularly remind myself is that I have so many things to be grateful for. Because there is no me without you. There is no I without us. And I’m all the better because there are people who are there for me.
I wish that I have also made people’s lives somewhat better, even if it’s just in a small way.
(Now back to packing!)
Read an old blogpost: What is Essential
More interesting reading: There's No Such Thing As Free Will (But We're Better Off Believing in it Anyway)
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.