Identity is a treasure chest we spend our whole lives hunting for. We can either end up on wild goose chases with many side quests or just go straight to the X marked on the tree. Regardless, in the search for identity, you gain a journey. You gain experiences that form into memories. 

However, as I continue on my quest to find my identity, there is one prominent question that surfaces: how and when will I know who I am?

As someone in their early 20s, these kinds of questions swarm more fervently setback after setback. After a while, it begins to become tiresome and results in an unproductive mindset. Let’s not even get into the inflation-running economy in a world that is a couple of years away from self-destruction. 

Does the journey of self even matter if by the time I am comfortable and satisfied with myself, it will be too late? Am I falling behind or trying to rush myself?

Recently, I have been slowly trying to unlearn the toxic traits I perform to benefit others before myself. I nearly have a mental breakdown when I have to make a decision or if I have to say “no.”

I have been a people-pleaser for as long as I can remember, and I am now learning how some habits have been inhibiting me from growth, such as upholding perfection. On some days, it paralyzes me with crippling anxiety from doing anything in fear of failure. In contradiction, my thoughts engulf me so much that zoning out is nothing out of the ordinary. 

On the journey to letting go of old habits, I am becoming someone who is starting to form the questions that involve self: who am I? What do I want? What makes me me? Is it under the empty treasure chest? Can I find it somewhere? The short answer that will never satisfy me, at least for right now, is no. 

I thought I found myself through my accomplishments and validations, especially since I’m a two-time self-published author before my 21st birthday.

 Although I am not neglecting my success, I often feel as though I do not deserve it. I feel as if I am either a spectator on the sidelines or someone binge watching a TV show, and the moment I start living my life, I feel like an imposter.

I feel as though I look at life through a simulated POV lens, so when the spotlight is on me, I have no choice but to freeze. 

Lately, when people ask me to tell them about myself or when teachers say to add a fun fact about myself, I get stumped.

 I feel like a broken record when I name the basic associations with myself. Deep down, I cannot help but have a gut feeling that I am something more than a broken record.

According to “Identity Development in Early Adulthood” by Johanna Carlsson et al., “From an identity perspective, early adulthood is an interesting phase of adulthood because people at this age are often focused on pursuing their aspirations for love and work and on establishing themselves in society.” 

Carlsson et al. continues, “Therefore, at this time in life many individuals begin to actually implement identity commitments they made previously, while simultaneously facing the new demands that accompany their acquired adult roles.”

During these years, we are supposed to learn, grow, fall, crumble, learn again and grow again in a redundant circle. Nevertheless, we are intentionally scrambled up jigsaw puzzles in hopes we complete ourselves. 

What I have trouble with is accepting the fact that finding myself is not going to be a eureka moment. Identity will not be something tangible to hold or a distinguishable answer. It is possible that the whole point to this life thing is the journey we all take to find ourselves.