How I Learned to Pack My Identity with Me, Whilst Leaving Space for More

My entire life I’ve struggled with the concept of identity. Not because I didn’t feel I had one or because I didn’t like the one I did have. But because all the things I was always so sure about, were also things that can be so easily tempted to crumble, just because they might not align with what society would label me under.

I like identity because it gives us something to grasp, but I hate it because it can also put up barriers. Depending on where you were born, the image people will have of you will change. You’ll be stereotyped differently and looked at for more than simply who you are. Depending on where you’re from, your own concepts and outlooks on the world will be complex and different in their own way. That’s the beauty of culture. But that’s also why it’s so hard to know what to take with you when you start moving. Because no one is ever just one thing. Identity is much more complex, it transcends culture – it complicates things. It is something we build as we live, something that changes. 

Identity is much more complex, it transcends culture – it complicates things. It is something we build as we live, something that changes. 

As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, then I wanted to be an “inventor” as I would call it, create things; then a fashion designer, a doctor, a storyteller and finally, a psychologist. As I put them all together, I can definitely see the common factors – the little things that led me to where I am today. I’m a photographer because I like being creative, and a psychologist because I like understanding what I create and why I do it. I love every single one of the outlets I’ve developed. But there was a time where I felt like a lost puppy. A time where I identified intensely with Joey Tribiani and his endless dance with small, random parts. Just like him, I wanted to try everything that seemed appealing to me, but was too scared to settle for just one. I think this is probably why we all love Joey so much, because he brings us back to a much more playful time in our lives. 

Added to that already prominent existential crisis was the fact that I was in a limbo between two cultures. Trust me when I say that for the longest time, my brain just couldn’t figure out what to make of all that mess. I’m a perfectionist, an over thinker – just like Monica & Ross, I need to understand the logic behind things before I dive into them. I can’t just jump into a pool without thinking about the consequences. So although I’m extremely thankful to have grown up with no particular attachment to a culture, there was also a time where I hated it. 

I hated not knowing enough about my country growing up. I hated how much I knew about a culture so far away from my own. I despised not understanding why kids thought speaking French in school was weird. I wanted to just be Mexican and do Mexican things, but at the same time I loved my French school and my French teachers. I loved how my friends and I could publically be shady divas in French and not have anyone understand us. And I loved the weird and funny mixture of Spanish and French we developed. Our teachers hated it; they would constantly tell us to “stop speaking fragnol”-. If only they knew we never stopped and use it  ‘til this very day. 

I was torn. Naively, I was stressing out for things that shouldn’t even exist on the first place. Like the thought that you can only grow if you follow one organized and logical path. The thought that doing many things at once will never lead you to stability. The thought that your identity should align with everything you do. I attribute these ideas to being naïve because to me, your experience is what builds your identity. Taking a shut up and go mentality and trying different paths are what add to the understanding you have of yourself. That’s how you gain experience.   

Don’t get me wrong; I learned this the hard way. It took me going away, leaving my country and taking in a lot of really interesting observations from different people, for me to understand I could be whatever the heck I wanted to be – and that it was okay if that constantly changed. 

Before leaving, I spent months figuring out the identity I wanted to pack with me. I tried to figure out how I wanted to present myself, the speech I wanted people to hear when they asked about me. I thought there was only space for one Sathya in my suitcase, but I quickly realized more Sathya’s were to come. To put in in perspective, your girl has been thought to be anything from Latina, to Middle Eastern, to French all in a matter of minutes. I’ve been addressed in languages I’ve never even heard before, and the fact that my name is one commonly used in India, whilst my face does not necessarily scream that, is something that has confused many. 

These are all things I could’ve never expected, but they gave me an entire new perspective on identity. Seeing how the one I packed slowly merged with all these new phases got me to open up like never before. I started to get curious; I wanted to see how far people’s minds could go – how much their culture and their own identity could push them to see all these different hidden aspects of myself, I probably wouldn’t have seen on my own-. At times, some of these comments would not resonate with me at all. Until I started to discover the magic behind these special moments, where something or someone would get me to finally put into words a new feeling or experience – adding to my luggage. 

I think we all start our journey with an extremely rich and full luggage. Which is I why I find it’s really unfortunate when society feels the need to forbid us from having a “Joey” phase. Because those trial and error moments are the ones that will allows us to learn how to leave space in our suitcase for more, instead of filling it up right away. Giving ourselves the opportunity to question our identity and make mistakes, will eventually lead us to a broader path, where changing direction and taking shortcuts won’t seem that scary. 

 

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