Thursday, 8 January 2015

Identity/Identities (1)

Please introduce yourself to the rest of us - in a way that shows your preferred mask(s) as well as (some of) the "real" you behind/ underneath/ within/ beyond/ in between/ ... all those masks.

You are welcome to approach this topic in any way you find suitable - including, of course, in a creative way and/or in a live performance. If you choose to do a performance, please record yourself and send us the youtube link :)

images from:


  1. Within the first minute of any interview we are daunted with the question, "Tell me about yourself." Such a simple and straight-forward question, yet we all take precautionary steps to curate our answers perfectly - allowing only a dab of creativity and mostly portraying ourselves in the light that we think our employers want to hear. We erase details that we are not proud of, delete moments that prove our failures, and eliminate events in our lives that we wish to forget. In the rush of perfecting our image to others we exhaustingly, and unnecessarily, lose a part of who we are.

    The upper paragraph describes how I feel whenever I prepare for an upcoming interview, edit my resume, or simply heading to a social gathering. The Sandra that I introduce and characterize myself as has inevitably become the Sandra I inherently believe I am. To others I portray myself as an incredibly social, enthusiastic, happy-go-lucky girl who is just the life of the party. My 1103 "friends" on Facebook has granted me access into many different social groups, my part-time job at a luxury footwear brand has gifted me a mixture of envy and admiration from others, and my current internship with a local webzine has reaped praise from colleagues and such.

    The truth is, I love to spend time alone. I love to run on the track fields by myself and feel the cold night air hit my face, I love to curl up in the corner of Irving's 3rd floor library and read Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar, and I love to explore the city I was born in with my mother. I have only become acquainted with four people that I can really call my true friends, my part-time job is really not all that glamorous, and the respect I have gained because of my internship would fade if I said that it really was not difficult to obtain.

    The self I deliver to the public eye is still me. I am only good at being me, and even if that means I must sacrifice a portion of what I really resonate with, I would still be willing to do so. As long as I am surrounded by good company that sees the me who doesn't feel the need to cover or hide, then I am content.

  2. According to Facebook, I’m a Human Resources Team Member at Target (well, at least while it’s still operational in Richmond) and student at UBC, with 330 friends and no life. According to Twitter, my goal in life is to befriend Harry Styles. According to Instagram, I live on bad puns and angst. According to Tumblr, I am Satan’s spawn and I have a tendency to write things that break people down to bits.
    That’s how I briefly describe myself to people, with some two or three word responses, depending on who I’m talking to. Set me up for an interview and I could tell you my academic achievements, my service awards, my records of employment. Introduce me to a new friend and I’ll try to come up with some joke I saw on the internet the other day when I was procrastinating from doing my homework—or maybe tell them that instead, that I procrastinate a lot because that’s an easy common ground for students.
    There was never any rules laid down on my preferred mask other than this girl is a good girl, raised in a conservative Filipino household. I was still allowed to be boisterous and opinionated, just not rebellious.
    The preferred mask doesn’t deviate much from the real one, since it doesn’t have much verbal and emotional filter to begin with anyway. But the preferred mask is much stronger, more tolerable and patient with people. The preferred mask is cynical and aloof, with a tendency to insult and injure.
    Truth be told, the real me is a sucker for romantic gestures, kind words, and affection. I am happiest when I’m walking along a trail at night, looking at stars. Large bodies of water and walks along trails calm me down when I’m upset. The real me cries at the word “home” and the phrase “after all these years”. The real me is drenched with insecurities and second thoughts and the need for constant validation.
    My mask isn’t something I consider entirely different from me, but an extension of myself. It is the version of myself that I want to be, that I try to live up to. It’s the tough armor for this tough world. The real me is like a vulnerable, vital organ. It’s essential to who I am, but it needs protection—that’s what my mask is for.

  3. The world around me asks questions. What's up? How are you? What's your name? Where are you from? What do you do? Who are you? I've always found these questions to be rather trivial, redundant, yet necessary in today's society. They are a reality of the social world we find ourselves in and represent fleeting connections and short lived friendships.

    I like to ask people the question: what is your story? I find that question takes away from all the little, insignificant realities we place upon our identity; it weeds out the unimportant and leaves us with the essential.

    Oh the essential, such a spectacular thing. A story is essential, an identity is essential, a passion is most essential. In our modern day society we often pollute the air with the unessential, the insincere: the fake. We ask each other questions, not for the purpose of attaining a true answer, but rather for the purpose of playing out the task we feel necessary for social conformity.

    Only a few people have asked me what my story is. The rest always want to know where I'm from because my skin looks different, and I don't look textbook. I tell them I'm from Persia and India on my father's side and Welsh and Irish on my mothers. I don't even bother about telling them I'm really neither Persian or Indian, that my father's peoples, my peoples, came from an old world and that we have no home anymore. They call us the Parsi's. No one knows what that is, and usually the five minutesI spend telling them have sent them far away. I don't even bother to mention that my father was raised in Africa, that he fled Uganda after three generations of familial habitation to Canada due to genocide. Most people only know about Rawanda, they have never heard about the Ugandan genocide.

    I tell people I am Canadian. I tell them this because it is who I am and all of the above is Canada to me: many people from all walks of life.

    Some people tell me I seem tough. Tough, or sweet. I've always felt like I inhabit both those groups in limbo, floating through two worlds…I've been floating all along.

    The truth is, I see past things. I see past smiles and laughter and into eyes and minds. I feel things almost innately, an intuitive sense that has rendered me stunned for a lot of my life. The truth is I feel things too much. For a long time I tried to block that out, but when i woke on the shores of my conscious years later, everything was where I left it.

    My heart breaks for the world we live in and I am constantly trying to understand the why's for things: the cause for the effect. I believe in a truth to things, a truth to right and wrong: a light and a dark. I've often felt like an outsider in this world: a girl whose parents have risen from chaos I was born into privilege only to feel guilty for all I had. I never wanted more.

    In high school I sought out the troubled, trying to dive into their minds eye and take away their pain. It didn't work, they could not be saved.

    I have more questions than anything really. The more I learn the more I don't know but I'm okay with that. Eckhart Tolle once said, "The essence of a question is to be without answer". That has always resonated within me.

    I guess my story is one of life: life and all it has to offer. I love it, all of it. I've never shied away from the dark parts and I have always smiled when the sun shone. I guess I believe in this life we have to grateful, courageous and good. Brave, aware and awake. I try to learn as much as I can about the world around me and stand up for whats right.

    So that's my story. That's who I am. I could have told you I've spent the last 3 years traveling, that I work as a server in an Italian restaurant, that I'm an undeclared student verging on third year status, that I enjoy classical music, fires and tea. These things are all relevant, but they are not who I am.

    What is your story?

  4. Hey, I'm Kathy. I grew up and currently live in East Van, just off the Drive.
    My parents have always asked me to be a "good Vietnamese girl." I'd put on the mask, adopting traditional appearances, beliefs, and behaviours for cultural functions and family get-togethers. Needless to say I had trouble keeping it on for too long.
    I'm not sure if I put on a "Canadian" mask instead. Perhaps being born and raised here, the Canadian-ness is so inherent that I don't even notice it -- sort of parallels Canada's tendency to be low-key. On the other hand, I may just not have been interested in what I thought being a Canadian meant. I love the country, it's safe, with good healthcare, diverse communities, and an abundance of nature. The stereotypes: hockey playing, wood-cutting, ice skating, eating at Tim Horton's, etc. didn't appeal to me. I mean, I eat the doughnuts, can skate, and I think I'm a nice enough person, but these aren't key identifiers.
    I ended up becoming an Anglophile in the 5th grade and, well, now I'm an English Lit major. I read up on UK history, watched a ton of BBC docs and comedy specials, tracked the BBC Radio charts past to present, enjoyed the art, preferred YA novels set in the UK, and figured out how to use a VPN in the 6th grade so I could watch Channel 4 shows that weren't meant for 6th graders. This is a mask that I wore for myself; the obsession wasn't super relate-able in my circles. Eventually I found that when I read aloud, I'd slip into some kind of muddled "All-Over-the-UK-English" accent, and that voice felt truer than my own although it's entirely false.
    That said, I've never even been to the UK. It's the stereotypes and what I've gleaned from all that I've consumed that appeals to me. Actually being there may make the mask harder to put on even if I'm already aware that it's not all wit and irreverence, but also the complete opposite.
    Has anyone read Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks? Off the Wiki: "The divided self-perception of the Black Subject who has lost his native cultural origin, and embraced the culture of the Mother Country, produces an inferiority complex in the mind of the Black Subject, who then will try to appropriate and imitate the culture of the colonizer." When I read the book I couldn't help but apply the theories to my own experiences and relate to the anecdotes. I've got my own yellow skin, white masks thing going on. If you're interested I recommend giving it a go.

    So here I am now, attempting to revisit the masks that I didn't like/bother wearing and put them on, because while the whole UK thing is me, it also isn't. I'm not a Brit, I'm Vietnamese-Canadian. So I'm trying to discover elements of my people that interest and inspire me, rather than simply accepting what I've been told. I want to figure out what being Vietnamese is for myself. The same goes for being Canadian. It's not the stereotypes, it's this city, it's the people, it's the history and literature that I've barely scratched the surface of.
    Instead of putting on different masks, I'm essentially trying to just wear one that's a mosaic of all these other masks. I'll wear it 'til it fuses with the skin on my face.

  5. Preferred Mask: I say I'm Canadian just for the convenience of it. It's not because I'm particularly enamored with the Canadian culture or the need to be a "Canadian," it is rather because there are already pre-existing notions and misconceptions about me that I've just gone up to the point where I no longer care to explain nor feel the need too. I'm not Canadian, just to clarify, but often I'm categorized in the Canadian box just because I speak English and it is, unfortunately, the only language that I speak. But to be fair, this only ever happens when I open my mouth. Should I keep my mouth shut, others would just assume that I'm not Canadian (that in itself is great for me too.)

    Real Me: I had trouble dealing with this when I was younger, where I would feel so helpless at the thought of lying to people that I'm Canadian, when in reality I don't really care and I just don't wish to be. I'm proud to be where I'm from and I'm not trying to hide where it is. But really, sometimes when you're asked this question so many times, or people just automatically assume because of the way you speak and the way you carry yourself, you can't help but feel like sometimes it's just not worth caring about.

    The mask I wear is of indifference.

  6. It's interesting that no matter how well we can explain ourselves there will always be someone who interprets you a little differently. To be honest, it's not hard to think of words to describe myself: student, introvert, intersectional feminist, reader, writer (of letters to friends, of poetry in my time alone), lover of travel, lover of art, swimmer... and each word carries with it different spheres of life and different worlds of meaning (UBC; home; school; the city; the ocean). The difficult part, then, is describing myself so that I connect the way I see myself, the way I'd like to be, and the way I'd like to be seen by others. Luckily, I have friends I've been close with since grade eight, and none of us have to worry about how we seem to each other - we've seen so much of each other that it's easy to consider all parts of the person in what they say or do.
    With strangers, however, I'm quite easily reduced to a stuttering mess when someone asks me about who I am, what I like to do, and where I've been. It is in this case that I don't know how to use my words. The best I can do is give them a poem I've written and hope they can interpret it, or show them a beautiful dress I've seen and hope they understand what this says about what I enjoy, or watch the sea together for a day in the hopes that it'll make it easier to talk afterwards. My favourite way to get to know someone is to ask them not what they are but how they feel and how they see the world; after all, you're staring at an entire lifetime of things when you ask someone about their character, and there is no way that either of you can make any judgments based on that moment alone.

  7. It seems that many individuals hold a mask between their true self and others that they interact with and I am one of these individuals. In the eyes of other individuals, I tend to be very calm and composed on a daily basis. People will see me as more of an extrovert because I am always socializing with others in classes or whenever I am out of school. They will also think that I do not have a care in the world because I tend to seem relaxed and levelheaded even when there is a lot going on. People will see all of my social tendencies but few really know the real me.

    I can be calm and composed but in all honesty, I am probably freaking out in my mind without saying anything out loud. I tend to keep to myself rather than showing others how I feel about certain things because for me, it is difficult to express my emotions. I am a total worry wart and tend to over-think everything. Because I worry a lot and over-think, I tend to panic a lot as well but I tend to keep all of this on the inside. I am also more of an introvert than an extrovert; I prefer being on my own because it is exhausting both mentally and physically to socialize with others for prolonged periods of time. I am a total sucker for classical music and any sort of symphonic bands because I was part of my high school band and orchestra; I played an oboe and a cello and like to point out when I hear my instruments in music. I am really passionate about everything and am also very sensitive but I like to keep this all to myself as well as to not freak people out with how much I actually care about every single thing in this world. Though I try not to show this side to too many people, once anyone gets the chance to talk to me more, it will become very obvious that this is my true self.

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  9. My name is John Park. The mask I have on right now is that of a student at UBC, and an employee for Broadband TV. Behind this mask however, lies one word that makes up everything that I am today. Genuinely, I am a lover of music. I’ve been exposed to music since a very young age. My mother being a piano teacher, I was introduced to the instrument at the age of 4. Despite countless fights with my mother (anybody who learned an instrument from a parent would understand), I grew to love not just the instrument, but also its vast history of composers and pianists. Gradually my love for music grew till the point where it would be rare to find me without earphones plugged into my ears, the music decorating what would otherwise be a mundane day. It was amazing how one melody could alter my emotions so drastically. Piano was my gateway into the world of music, but my true love blossomed in the art of singing. I realized then, that the most beautiful instrument was none other than the human voice! Words spoken can hold many meanings. The same words sung could amplify those meanings and convey such emotion that I perceived it to be nothing less than a blessing from God! For me, singing allowed myself to discretely express and vent my emotions without exceedingly exposing myself. Countless times I would skip my high school classes and go to the karaoke with my friends, singing for hours until I lost my voice. I secretly took up singing lessons, so that one day I may be able to pursue my goal of becoming a singer. In my short 21 years alive, the most powerful memory that I possess is that of my first singing performance at a small Korean café. It filled me with joy that people would sit there and generously donate their time in listening to my song… my story. A series of events prevent me from accomplishing my dream thus leading to my current mask, the most significant one being my father. An accomplished man in terms of education, he held high regards in importance of my academics. The road as a singer (in his understanding, an entertainer) was not adequate in the least. However, going against my father’s wishes was not and will never be an option for me. And with that, today I wear a mask as a UBC student, studying English and an employee at a corporation in my dad’s approval. I do not despise my current mask, nor do I feel remorse towards my father. I am proud to attend such a beautiful school and am proud to have the approval of my father. Underneath my mask, I know that I still have a heart overflowing with passion and love for the music that illustrates who I am.

  10. I was born a CODA. A child of a deaf adult. This is my identity. It was given to me upon birth and something I have grown with as an integral part of me. There are many responsibilities placed upon CODAs, some intentional, some not. When time calls for it, I am my mother’s ears as well as her voice. At a young age, I was a 4 foot tall interpreter. I answered the phone, spoke with banks, and relayed passing sirens in the car. These tasks have made me into a responsible young woman. I know I am capable of doing many things that you don’t get taught in school. The life experiences I have already accumulated are priceless. On the other hand, growing up with so much responsibility is hard for a child. It is hard to keep calm and interpret at the hospital when your mom is writhing in pain. It is hard to relay opinions and words you don’t agree with and have it reflect badly on you. It is hard to not get mad at stares from strangers because your mom sounds different. I remember how I used to pretend I was deaf as a young child. I wasn’t really sure where I fit in. I was in between the hearing and deaf communities. Divided among two very different worlds. Learning how to navigate two cultures at the same time was challenging. It took some time but I learned that I am not one or the other, I am a blend of both the deaf, the hearing, and many other wonderful things in this world. I have come to the realization that this identity was assigned to me. It is not an identity that I discovered and that blossomed with time, but a label placed by society. When asked for something interesting about myself, I would always say my mom is deaf. But that isn’t me. I am a CODA and always will be. But that is not all there is to me. I am responsible and giving, but also strong willed and fiercely independent. My mind is always racing, and I am always dreaming of the future. I can speak two languages at the same time, and when I get nervous my hands automatically start signing (I just had a flashback to singing in my grade 8 talent show, yikes). As I have become more independent, I have had to help my mom relearn how to be. Before I was born, my mom did many more things for herself. We are actually very alike. Identity is something that Western civilizations see as a strictly individual concept. I have experienced it on a collective level. As I discover my identity, I can also help my mom rediscover hers. Independence doesn’t have to mean doing it alone. It is easy to absorb the identity of others and wear it as a type of mask. I feel like I have done that most of my life and I am only now starting to take off the mask and reveal my true self. It has been hard, and I can imagine it will only get harder. But in the end, the sense of self I will finally have will be it’s own reward.

    Chantel Wright

  11. Even though this was the very first blog post, and it is now the end of the term, I have decided to come back to this topic because of some recent refection I’ve done. This year has frankly been quite a struggle for me. In my second year here at UBC, I have become more accustomed to university life and am more settled in my new home here, but emotionally this year has been extremely difficult. In light of a few incidents this school year, I have discovered that I in fact have been suppressing my emotions and hiding behind a mask. I come across as a very happy and 'smiley' person but underneath this mask I am crippled with anxiety. I have good friends and I'm doing well in my classes but I am constantly anxious to the point that I live with constant stomach aches and can barely function. On a normal school day I would usually go to class, and then promptly return to the safety of my bed until I had another commitment that required me to leave. My good friend Sarah asked me about this. I’ve known here for two years now and it took her a long time to be able to understand how important it is for me to spend time by myself. Social situations are draining, and this on top of a full course load is at times unbearable.

    Now this is not a new phenomenon, I have been anxiety ridden since I was a child. I was a very shy, anti-social kid; just the thought of having to sleep over at someone’s house would send me into a state of vomit inducing panic. I never admitted this though. I didn’t think that anything was wrong with me so I suppressed all the negative feelings I had, but what I didn’t realize was that suppressing these feelings was the worst thing I could possibly do. This year has made me realize this. On top of school I was also a residence advisor in Totem Park, which is part of the reason I realized how much my mask affects me. Advising is an extremely social job and it has emotionally been draining on me. Many of my co-workers and residents have commented on my constant smile and I really did smile more than I ever have, but I think I was over compensating for how badly I was feeling. I hit rock bottom more than once but after seeing the bravery of some of my co-workers share their stories of mental health, I have now come to a place of acceptance.

    For as long as I can remember my mom has said to me “be kind to yourself”. When I was deep in denial about the state of my metal health I shrugged this off but I realize now the importance of this phrase. I do need to be kind to myself and in order to do this I need to seek help. I have stopped worrying about the sigma associated around mental heath and I am now on a path of bettering my self, and my health.

  12. When asked the question who are you? I often find it hard to answer. I have no clear identity towards a specific country since I have moved around so much. Having lived in almost every continent, being the owner of various passports, and not attaching myself to any place for more than a few years it is hard for me to consider myself part of a specific country. I am a big mesh of various cultures having visited so many places, lived in so many, and moved around so much. It is usually quite easy for me to connect to people since I am able to find some sort of similar interest, however I do not take the effort to do so myself. I have grown to develop a way of thinking that makes it tiresome to make friends if I am to lose them soon due to all my moving. Sometimes it just seems like a lot of trouble to get to know someone well over a year or two and end up leaving them behind soon after you finally have been able to know each other well. I am able to speak all three major languages in the world fluently which lets me communicate with the vast majority of the people in the world, but in the end I do not have a clear place where I can call home when going back for vacations after a school term is over. I am simply a passerby that travels around countries at all times.

  13. My name is Brian T. Weingärtner. I have chosen this as my mask to be more unique. I always felt I was, or wanted to be special. For many years I prided in the fact that I was the only Brian Weingartner in the world! Well, that was until the internet and social media arrived, and then I found another Brian Weingartner in Pennsylvania! To add insult to injury he's a musician too! We're FB friends, and actually we're probably 3rd or 4th cousins (I'm pretty sure he's decended from the same Weingartner that settled in Pennsylvania that i am!). But anyway, so I've since added my middle initial, and even brought the umlaut back just to differentiate myself that much more. It also makes me feel closer to my German heritage, and it seems retro and cool... so yeah.
    I am a musician. I play trombone. I also play euphonium and tuba really well. I can make some decent sounds on many other instruments too because I am studying to be a music educator as well.
    I am a university student. I study music, and as mentioned above I am going into the education program, so eventually I will be a teacher too.
    I am an audio engineer. A sound tech. An AV guy. I am a producer. A record label owner. Entrepreneur.
    I am a husband. I am married to a wonderful woman who has supported me greatly.
    I like to claim I am a self-made man, but I'm really nothing without her. She has made many of my achievements over the past 8 years possible.
    I do too much. It makes me overwhelmed... so I freak out and then I don't do enough. I swear I'm going to break my habit of procrastination soon, but just not today.

  14. Hello! I'm Helena. Hey :). I am doing my undergrad at UBC in psychology. The love of my life is my dog Ben even though he's naughty and barks at everyone (we're working on it).

    I am happiest in the presence of others. I rarely enjoy the solitude of being alone. I am a student, aspiring to help others as a counsellor. I am a daughter, striving to please my family. I am a friend, trying to be there when I am needed. I am an ex lover, rejoicing in the relationship we shared. I am a sales associate, apologizing for being sold out of that item you wanted on the mannequin. But above all else, I am me.

    On my free time I hang out with my friends. We like trying new restaurants and cafes.

    I cannot live without going to the gym and like to eat as healthy as possible. Sushi is my weakness.

    I want to use my degree to help people, as cliche as that sounds. I chose to major in psychology but right now I am building my volunteer hours to transfer into the social work program.

    Ultimately I would love to be a counsellor. Maybe work as a case manager or in adoptions.