“It was easy to be somebody else when no one cared who you were in the first place.”
-“Virgins,” Danielle Valore Evans
Individual. Identity. I wonder if those are more will-o’-the-wisps than guides.
The first comes from in-, “not,” and dividere, “divide.” An individual is someone who cannot be divided. But I’m divided all the time: I want this, and that; my heart pulls here, and there. Part of me is at this desk, part of my is wandering down one misty lane in etymology, and if we’re friends, perhaps part of me is sitting there next to you.
The second comes from idem, “the same.” That’s why trigonometry has so many identities: sin2 θ is the same as 1 − cos2 θ. Then again, I think we have so many identities, too. If I stand next to anyone I’ve ever met, I can see some ways in which we’re the same. I can see some ways in which we’re different. I feel an identity in me, a sameness that continues, day to day, but I also feel changes and transformations. Whatever identity I have, I think it’s an identity of community, with different voices talking, an identity of transformation, with new plants growing. I might choose which voice opens my lips, which seeds I water, but I’m not a diamond or an atom. I’m more like a little storm system, pushed and pulled by the other storms around it and directed by the ground beneath it and held by the planet’s atmosphere.
“It was easy to be somebody else when no one cared who you were in the first place.” I hope the other side is true, too. I hope it’s easier to be yourself when somebody else cares who you are. Maybe we’re not indivisible, we’re not the same (not always, not in all ways), but we can learn to be ourselves by sharing with the people around us. We can help them learn, help them be. I wonder if that’s a better guide than individual identity. I wonder if being is something we do together, not on our own.