Yesterday I was listening to a TED podcast during my hour long commute back home from work. It got me thinking about my own identity. I’m 25 years old and I’ve never felt so lost about who I am.

It’s a regular occurrence for someone to ask me “where are you from?” – I always find myself so confused at that question because to me it could mean  “where do you currently live?”,” where did you grow up?”, “where were you born?”, “what’s your race?”, “why do you look that way but speak a different way”. I mean this question usually comes up because someone thinks I have an accent, or because of the way I look. All those questions are very different answers which brings up even more confusion in my mind. Why am I the way I am? The easy answer is that I’m a result of my upbringing and environment, but that answer feels like a dead end in a maze to me.

So many things shape who we are. Some people (actually most people?) are comfortable or more inclined in identifying with their race, religion or culture. I feel like I’m in a limbo when it comes to those very basic groups. I was born in Iraq, I moved to New Zealand when I was four years old, I grew up in a Catholic household, I was completely educated here in New Zealand, and I had a traditional Iraqi wedding when  I married an American man. That’s a very short timeline of big events my life when I think of what may have shaped me into who I am today. But here I am, feeling so detached from my own race and culture especially.

Maybe the problem is I’m trying to hard to fit into a box. I feel out of place within my culture. My ideals lean closer to Western ways of thinking. But again, here in a Western society I’m confused about so many ~Western~ things. I can’t relate to a Western upbringing, but I also can’t relate to the upbringing within my own culture because as a kid I was so defiant when it came to embracing that part of myself. I rejected learning how to read and write in my language, how to cook our cultural meals, learning about our history so much so often for no good reason. I think a lot of first generation immigrant children in a foreign country can relate. When you so badly want to be like the rest of the kids, but your parents are so adamant on keeping you grounded in your culture. Oh and religion? That’s a whole topic in itself. I’m content in my spiritual mindset for now.

Besides all those groups you’re associated with growing up, that help shape you, there’s a plethora of other things that also contribute to who you are. Things like your interests and hobbies. I’ve always been a homebody that enjoys to draw and paint, and just really make anything that I can. But that’s just been something I’ve done by myself. I never joined groups where art or creating were what bound people together. Yes, I have support from my friends and family when it comes to my artwork, but apparently for me it isn’t enough to keep up a healthy drive or motivation to want to create more. This has left me in an art slump which feels like it’ll never go away.

So, at 25, I feel like I’m only beginning to piece together who I am. What parts of my life make me me. I feel like it’ll be a long road before I’m 100% content with this part of myself, but at least I’m aware enough. Maybe it’s more simple than I’m making it out to be. Maybe I’m putting too much meaning in a simple question like “where are you from?”

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