We come into this world as blobs of clay. Lifeless. Formless. Undefined. It is only from the moment when we are pushed into existence and take the first breathe of life that we begin to form our consciousness and being.
Slowly slowly, we create parts of a whole human being. These parts are then neatly stored in brown and shabby cardboard boxes. The ones used when packing things away and organising them into categories. So that they may be recovered at some point in the future. We then grab the black marker. Permanent. Used to define and identify what is what. Who is who. Where is where. Incomprehensible. Irreversible. Inescapable.
These are my boxes or at least some of them:
I am male. Which means that my genitals make it easier for me to relieve and pleasure myself. Growing up, I was pushed to like cars and sports and the colour blue. But only one of those actually came true. My voice cracked and deepened; I could no longer reach those high notes. I will never have to experience the terribly uncomfortable experiences of childbirth, or periods, or being paid less because of my gender. Happy about the first two, but will always fight against the last one.
I am Maltese. Which means that I gesticulate a lot when I speak, almost as much as an Italian. I have a darker skin tone than that of the usual Caucasian European. I enjoy typical Maltese delicacies on a regular basis – pastizzi, mqarrun fil-forn, froġa tat-tarja, spaghetti tal-fenek, kalamari mimlijin, ħobż biż-żejt. And as hard as I try to avoid it, I always enjoy the occasional Maltese swear word here and there.
I am an only child. Which means that people will automatically assume I am spoilt. Even though I would not consider myself to be. I am home alone for most of the time. When I get tired of interacting with people, it is nice to know that I can escape to a quiet house. Even though, it does get quite lonely.
I am a private school child. Which means that while we were not well-off, my parents worked hard because they wanted the best education for me. And although my education was of a high standard, I did not really enjoy being around my classmates. It is sad, but the stereotypical idea of having rich parents and not caring about school because you could ultimately go and work with mummy and daddy for the family company did and does exist. And I witnessed it first-hand for 13 years. I was bullied for who I was and for not fitting in. People describe me as too nice to be a private school child. I am glad about that.
I am a nerd. Which means that I was never and will never be popular or cool, and I was frequently picked on because of it. I do not take pride in my own intelligence, even though I should. I am above average, but I brush it under the carpet out of fear of seeming arrogant or self-important. I do not appreciate my brains in the way that I should.
I am primarily English speaking. Which means that I have difficulty when it comes to communicating in my mother tongue. I have been told that I should be ashamed that I am Maltese, and yet my ability to converse in Maltese is poor. I avoid speaking in Maltese out of fear of messing up and making a fool of myself. I would rather speak English and be called ‘tal-pepe’, than try to speak Maltese and fail.
I am casual. Which means that I wear a never-ending combination of jeans and hoodies and t-shirts. My body is too disproportionate to wear shirts, as they are either too short or too tight. Suits make me feel out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin. I instantly avoid anything slim fit, unless it comes in the form of trousers or jeans. I will never be complimented on my own style, for it is rather lazy and lacklustre. And to that I say – meh….
I am unattractive. Which means that I still have a long way to go in terms of learning to love myself; more specifically, my physical appearance. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this beholder of the eye does not see any beauty in front of him. I do not fit in to the societal standards of beauty. I have not been sculpted to include abs, or v-lines, or muscles. The only thing I find physically attractive about myself is my legs. I truly believe that nobody will fall in love with me just because of my looks. But at least I know that people can fall in love with characters instead.
I am Christian. Which means that I have not changed the religion that I was brought up in and taught at school. I have never read the Bible. My faith is not as strong as it used to be. I cannot remember the last time I went to confession. I attend mass, even though my faith in the institution of the church has declined. My faith lies more in my understanding of what it means to be spiritual, rather than religious. I still believe that there is something greater than us out there, and I refer to this as God solely because that is what I have learnt.
I am feminine. Which means that I am anything but ‘masculine’. I am very in tune with my emotions, which means that I often cry more than I would like to. I am not aggressive or confrontational or brash or rough. I was bullied for being too girly and being a sissy. But above all else, my femininity means that I am especially empathetic. My ability to connect with people’s emotions and feelings is a skill that I am always happy to have and share.
I am a theatre kid. Which means that I always have a song within me that I will then proceed to share with the world, whether it wants it or not. Without a song or a dance, I would be nothing. I may not be the greatest performer in the world, but I still receive so much joy from practicing it. It is too much a part of me to ever get rid of. And although it might never be my full-time profession, it will always be my full-time passion.
I am queer. Which means that I do not fit into the typical heteronormativity heavily present in the society which I live in. I fit into many of the stereotypes associated with the token-role of being the ‘gay best friend’, yet I am more than just a stereotype. I understand that my love will always be viewed as something different from the norm. Luckily, I will never know the fears of accidentally getting a girl pregnant. Unluckily, I will always know the fears of being impacted by HIV at higher rates than if I were heterosexual.
I have mental problems. Which means that I might not always be ok, but that is ultimately ok. These problems are not enough to classify me as a sociopath or psychopath or madman that you see in the movies. But enough to understand what the difference is between having a mind which is calm and a mind which is turbulent. I am self-conscious, and self-critical, and anxious, and lacking in self-confidence. I have come to terms with the fact that I will forever be my own worst enemy. And it is scary to know that my ultimate battle in life will always be with myself.
I am all of these boxes. All of these boxes are me. More have formed and will continue to form as I continue on this journey of human existence. To get to know who I am through just one box would be to only see a small fragment of the bigger picture. And to remove one of these boxes from my being would be to completely alter my essence. Be it good or bad, positive or negative, easy or difficult – they are me. And I can either choose to reject them and risk forgetting who I am, or accept them and learn to live life while always carrying them with me.
Put me in a box, but know that I will always be more than just another box.