I am UIC: identity and loss

What makes you who you are?

I know it’s an age-old debate usually filled with two main components, which include words like genetics and one’s environment. I wish it could be broken down, however. What made me, me? I’m sure it’s one part the suburb I grew up in, one part the streets I’ve walked in the city, one part the friends I’ve met, lost, and gained over the years, one part my honey-colored skin, one part my femininity, one part how my mother has raised me… but what else? Or who else? Who are the sculptors I’ve forgotten? How many people and experiences have I forgotten?

Once in a while, I’ll remember (or someone else will remind me) about something that I did in the past that I thought was exceptional while I was doing it, and I will inevitably smile about the memory before frowning at the thought that I forgot it. Perhaps that’s why people have diaries. No doubt they are infinitely variable and hence worth recording, but every day of my life is so full (ah, what a marvelous thing it is to be young and have so many things to do and places to go and people to see) that I can’t imagine the amount of pages I’d have filled by now. Indeed, I’m sure I’d be under close environmental watch for personally decimating an entire rainforest.

Maybe it is better to think of memories as old friends. They come up just when you need them or just when you were least expecting them. You remember a memory, and it’s comforting like hot tea on Sundays or exhilarating like city lights at midnight. To be quite honest, I’m always surprised at how much and how vividly I feel when I remember a memory. I’m also surprised that as I’ve grown older, I remember less and less about my younger self. All I know is that I’ve lived through 239 months, seen (about) 7,170 sunsets, and experienced (about) 10,324,800 moments. Through all this time, I’ve been shaped and molded by both myself and by things and people out of my control.

A question that has plagued me often is what if you lost everything that makes you who you are? Perhaps that is not possible, but individual things like that happen all the time. What if you lost the ability to play a sport or do the one hobby that you feel identifies you? When we lose a facet of our identity, it feels like the worst kind of loss, but that aspect has already shaped you. Hence, losing it cannot change who you are right now.  That change only defines who you will be or become in the future. And does it? Certainly. However, you have a certain worth or essential being that remains regardless of what you lose on the outside.

The experiences you’ve had and the people you’ve met have shaped this being, this worth, and it will remain regardless of what you lose. This worth defines who you are rather than what you do or what you have or what you like or even who you know. And this is the worth, the being and the core that will enable you to deal with loss.


Apoorva TummalaApoorva Tummala spends a large chunk of her time learning about biology, economics and life in general. She likes to think too much about everything and deeply believes that one day she will “own” a maltipoo and a German shepherd (they will be mutually loving relationships, not one-sided ownerships). You’re most likely to find her reading a book with a cup of tea in the evenings and going on adventures in the city during the day. She manages to fit research at the College of Medicine, work and studying somewhere in between these two favorite activities. During her time off, she likes to travel and immerse herself in different cultures and cuisines.

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