“Tell us about yourself.”
These are the words which I fear the most. I wait dreadfully as each person before me speaks of their hobbies; that of music, sports, or some niche activities. Death’s scythe grinds on the ground as it is dragged towards me.
“I don’t really do much.”
That is not too far from the truth. Perhaps it was foolish for me to not specialise in a hobby and develop an identity that I could hold onto. A nomad that I am, I am interested in everything, and thus, nothing.
“Surely there’s something you do. Do you play an instrument, for instance?”
I do. Well, I did. It was the exact gnawing fear of being devoid of any musical affiliations which propelled me to learn the piano a few years back. Modest as my skills are, I can certainly ‘play’ certain melodies. However, may a French beginner claim to ‘speak’ French as a native does?
“What about sports? Do you play sports?”
I do quite adore sports—the thrill of the movement, of the cooperation, and of the celebrations. I find myself reliving my memories of me launching a volleyball into the air, and of the joyful stressfulness at 24-24. Volleyball was a resort where I hid from my life’s otherwise omnipresent commitments and tasks. However, do such pleasurable interludes constitute my identity? May an annual traveller to Bali have their ego defined by the voyages?
“Well, what do you do in your free time then?”
To tell the truth, in my free time I find myself confined to a chair, gently reclined, with my gaze fixed upon the fluctuating lights of pixels on a computer screen. Is that my identity?
No, I am a medical student. I am a brother, a son, and a friend. Am I defined by my hobbies, or are they defined by me? I ponder the validity of reducing a person to the activities they partake in, whose dreams, values, strengths, and fears I therefore overlook.
Is my mastery in the piano as important as I led myself to believe? Do the motivations and journey not mould this experience and my identity more so than the destination? Does the Bali traveller not find themselves defined by more than the destination, but the anticipation, the cherished memories, and the uplifted spirits associated with their journeys?
Does it matter what I do in my free time? Perhaps the beauty lies in embracing the fluidity of my identity and the possibilities it holds, like an incomplete map waiting to be expanded. There is no hurry to complete the voyage. Shouldn’t I slow down and appreciate the passing islands and the calls of the seagulls?
I cannot tell you about myself. But we can figure it out together.
Written by: Chenglin Wu
Edited by: David Mckay