I’m suffering something of an identity crisis. It’s not that I have a bad handle on who I am; I think I have a pretty good handle on that information, actually. What I can’t read is what others think of me, and that’s strange because for most of my life, I’ve known the opinions of others way before I’d formed an opinion about myself.
There is a series of questions that strike like jackhammers at my identity as a woman, and as a mom, and as a New Yorker, and as a Filipina, and as a woman of privilege, and as a writer. These sources of my identity are linked and intertwined and directly related, so that the empty spaces where answers should be are even longer and deeper and wider than I’d ever imagined possible. I’m being shaken. To my core.
And the first thing that suffers is my ability to write.
I’ve always prided myself on having something important and beautiful to say, and having a poignant way of communicating those ideas. But now? Nothing matters. Or rather, everything matters. So it’s hard for me to weed through my feelings and find a thread of artistic reprieve from reality.
It’s like being a pregnant woman with hormones fluctuating and eyes dripping like faucets. (Only I’m not pregnant. I don’t think.) I just can’t help but be overwhelmed with beauty or tragedy or mundanity or loss or love or hate. I just can’t help it. I’m feeling too much and I don’t know how to stop it. Every little thing that I’m personally experiencing is affecting me. A lot.
So I write, but I don’t feel the rush of joy, power and urgency that I used to find by writing. I read, but nothing I read hits me. Not at my core. It all feels so distant, so far removed from me and my reality. Topics that used to provoke strong responses merely cause a thin glimmer of recognition. That stuff used to get me so.worked.up. Not anymore.
Why is this the case? For one thing, I used to have a lot of gripes, all of them cliche and familiar: Not too long ago, I was going through my quarter-life crisis. Nothing made sense. Or, they made good, sound, logical sense, but they didn’t jive with what I thought my reality should be, and that fact didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t know where I was headed in life, and I didn’t know what I wanted. Plus, I was a perpetually broke POC/New Yorker who did sex work. So I had a lot of fish to fry.
And now? Not so many. Not by a long shot.
All of the fish that I fry these days are organically raised in my own ponds. I make them. I own them. They are mine because I choose for them to be mine, and not because I have inherited them through the slant of my eyes or the cravings I get now and again for pussy. I still identify as a POC and a woman and a feminist and a bisexual, but I’m not so sure that many POC, women, feminists and bisexuals can relate to me. After all, I’m living in a third world country where, by dint of my birthplace/citizenship and my light complexion, I am uber privileged. Also, because of these facts about me, no one ever attempts to put me in “my place”, even if they believe this place is rightfully mine due to my sex/age/sexual orientation. And the fact that I’m already in a happy and healthy long-term monogamous relationship with a dude? Not only has that curbed a lot of my appetite for the kind of danger that slutdom can bring, but it doesn’t invite unwanted insinuations based on my sexual preferences.
I read blogs and magazines about feminism, and I read blogs and websites about race, and I keep informed about what’s going on in world politics. But none of it makes me bat my lashes. So this one believes this and that one believes that: Why the fuck should I care? Aside from thoughtful articulation, I find little reason to give a damn.
Yet, without caring, I’m stuck. My words don’t make sense. They fall flat and lifeless to the page. They lack the sense of purpose they previously had.
Maybe this is a phase. Maybe once I finish a novel that I’m proud of/nursing school/traveling/having lots of kids/[insert other milestone], I won’t be so afraid to claim these other issues as my own. Maybe I just need to devote my present to my family, my friends, my education, and my writing, and as time goes on, I’ll find the strength to spend on worrying about things that will never change, like bias. Maybe I just don’t have energy or patience to waste on anything that won’t give me results. Maybe I’ve lost hope, or I’ve become more pragmatic, or I’ve simply stopped making those problems my problems.
I just know that a little reflection is necessary. Sometimes, when you’re backed up in a tight corner, the best thing to do is go in reverse. It’s the only way to turn some corners.