On my many selves

Who am I?

A question that plagues me in many waking [and sleeping] moments
A question, I’m sure,  is not unique to me
Yet it implores an answer, from me

As I ponder on my answer, what comes up are a bevy of contradictions
Somewhere in-between, I am yet to find out – who I am

Am I my name, my nationality, my professional title?
Am I my upbringing, my experiences, my dreams or desires?

Am I the person who often feels like an outsider in a country that is my home
Or am I the person who feels at home ten-thousand miles away [from that home]

Am I that person who people love guessing where I come from
“Oh! Your English is so good!”
[Always a surprise, maybe even a tone of shock]
“You don’t look like the others, you’re quite light-skinned”
[But of course, I must fit their stereotypes, right?]

Or am I that person who gets called out from the immigration line as I enter my own country
“Ma’am foreigners this way please”
[What tropes do I blame now; it’s not fair neither lovely]

I begin to wonder when I first started noticing, these contradictions.
When did I start questioning – who I am

Was it as the child who would dance naked on the table
Ne’er a care in the world
Or as the self-conscious teenager
Combatting eyes that objectified
[We all have breasts I’d think, was I not right?]

Now I  may be someone who hesitates to wear a deep-cut
Yet somewhere I’d hope to strut [in one]
Knowing my body is my own
A reminder much needed
In a society set out to control [a woman’s body]

If only I feel free in my body, then I may know – who I am

A nagging feeling tells me it’s my mind that I must free
It’s where the contradictions grow
Oh the stories we tell ourselves, in order to live
Our identities entwined [in these]
Changing and fluid

There are the stories I needed to explore

The bubbly child, adventurous and bold
Carrying an emotional burden, trying to escape its hold

A non-confrontational young girl
Holding peace or trying to appease

A woman with a mind of my own
Avoiding Grief, alas a quest forlorn

Still questioning – who I am

Many young years I lived a silent story
[But could not stop my words]
The contradictions were clear
The straight-haired girl
Meek, easy to subvert
No mind of my own [they’d think]
But little did they know
My story was penned in pages filled with words
And I found a piece of myself
Hidden from the rest of the world

The story that started then
Spread its wings soon enough
When I found myself in anonymity [of the big city]
Where I wasn’t afraid to speak up
Not in rooms filled with White men
Nor with the cool kids on the block
I had embraced my voice [and curls]
There was no stopping now
[In] Finding out – who I am

Was I my conditioning?
No, I refused to be
Quite determined to unlearn the many “should bes”

I wasn’t afraid to be different
Nor felt obliged to fit in
In adversity, I grew stronger
Feeling grounded in my skin

What was the secret to this conviction?
A few years would go by till this answer revealed

I’ve found myself, I had thought
I know – who I am

Little did I know, my knowledge was soon to be tested
My context had changed
And so had my home, my city
There was no longer that sense of familiarity
I had to defend my conviction
In environments set up against me
I had to fight battles inside and out
Face those emotions
Yes there were many

Here I was yet again, questioning – who I am

This time the unlearning was harder
It felt forced
I was questioning myself
But not on my own accord

The contradictions grew wider
A woman fighting for what she believed in
Yet giving her all to others
Strong but battered
A depleting self-trust

With every breach, the scars cut deeper
The voice still strong, grew softer
A muted conviction followed
And self-doubt screamed a lot louder

It was time to look in the mirror

Who am I?
Who did I want to be?

Did I want to be the little girl holding onto her past fears
Or could I break the pattern of limiting beliefs
Turn the page
Look at me here [in this moment]
Look at all that I’ve conquered

Did I want to be the one burned by love
Or could I give myself another chance
To not hide or retreat
To embrace new chapters
With an open mind and heart
Heal from the scars of the past

Did I want to be compromising my values and energy
At a job I told myself was my identity
Or could I be the one who shows up as her full self
In a community of kindred friendships
My voice stronger
My values affirmed
My conviction returned

How could I be all these, and more?
And right there was my answer
Staring – I get to choose
Who I want to be
Who I am

What I hadn’t realized back then
I had found the answer to now
An answer within me
Offering me the strength to draw

To face my contradictions
[There is nothing to fear]
When I waver, the sign is clear
[My] Life’s balance needs a restore

A pause is warranted
Where I get to choose
Where my focus goes
And my energy flows
Which direction I’d want to move

My values are my GPS
My vision, a guiding light
Vibes are my litmus test
Should I stay or should I drive

Somewhere along this journey
I’ll come across my many selves
Each with a story
Of many a contradiction and conviction
Also a lesson
And an act of courage
Born from the pause [I chose to take]
To redirect
And correct
The imbalance
Center myself

I’ll know in my heart
As I look at my many selves
I am full of contradictions
But my contradictions are not me
I may not know who I am
But I can choose who I want to be

I am not my abuses
Certainly not my abusers
Those who burned my trust
Have no place in my future

I am not my trauma
Nor am I my grief
My story will not be my limiting beliefs

I am my many selves
I am my many truths

Each one has a part to play
In shaping my whole story
Perfectly imperfect
Yet mine in all its glory

I can see now
I’ve come a long way
And I have a long way to go [ahead]
I know now
I get to choose – who I am

Be the main character
In my story
The one I get to write
And yes, it’s a work in progress
But then again, so am I

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