People – WHO THE F*** AM I?
Words: Ben Ilobuchi
The pursuit of an identity is one of the most important parts about being human. It defines what clothes we wear, who our friends are, how we act, how we talk, where we live, how we fuck, who we fuck and basically everything else that we do. I know for much of my life, I was searching for the answer to the question; ‘who am I?’ When I was younger I was into TV and movies, I still am but I was even more so back then. And in everything I was watching, everyone had an identity.
Shows like Friends had a dumb one, a smart one, an uptight one etc. And, as an impressionable young man, I took this caste system to heart. I felt I had to choose which ‘one’ I was. So, I went with being funny. If Chandler and Michelangelo could do it, why couldn’t I?
From then on, everything about my personality revolved around that. Everything I said had to be in the service of a joke. Nothing about what I said or did could be serious. I had to be funny. And as a black man, it seemed to be the most natural solution. White people think black people are hilarious (whether they’re laughing with them or at them is another story).
But then, with age, I realised this persona I was using was creating a disconnect between myself and others. It’s a tale as old as time, but I became isolated and often left feeling like people had never really met me. None of our conversations went past riffing and no one ever saw me as a person. It was also a self-fulfilling cycle, because the more I cut off I felt, the more I would try to connect in the only way I knew how; which was making an even bigger fool of myself.
This has changed as I’ve grown older for sure. I’m still goofy and take pride in my humour, but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of just saying what I mean, entering a situation without making a joke of it and truly being present with others. I’ve also shirked the weird, Brave New World-style approach to personalities that I had in my mind. There aren’t ‘dumb ones’ or ‘smart ones’ or ‘cool ones’, everyone is a mish-mash of everything and it all comes out in different environments and different ways. I think that’s a moral that The Breakfast Club already figured out, but it’s still an important one.
When I’m with my mum I’m a son, when I’m with my friends I’m a friend, and when I’m with my girlfriend I’m a nuisance. None of those are ‘the real me’ or ‘the fake me’. I’m in a constant, stable state of flux.
So to answer ‘Who the F*** Am I?’ the answer is ‘Who the F*** Cares?’
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