Layers of identity: Life and Literature

By Joshua Grant T. Empleo
Layers of identity: Life and Literature
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In an era where the parchment of our identity is being lacerated by the pressures of parceling ourselves out in various social contexts,  it often feels like we're being pulled in a million directions.

We are asked to be just bits and pieces of ourselves in different places. The question of what it truly means to be who we are becomes increasingly pertinent.

Amidst this existential crisis, Literature offers us a thought-provoking framework upon which to explore the layers of our personhood.

First, we can think of ourselves as characters in a story – we've got traits and roles that make us who we are. Sometimes we feel like a character in a feel-good novel, and other times it feels like the story of our lives comes straight out of Sophocles’ Greek tragedies. Nevertheless, it's all about the roles we play and the traits we show off.

We can also picture ourselves as a figure – a big idea brought to life. More than just a character; we now become part of something bigger, like the hero in an epic tale. Be it a student, activist, lawyer, or teacher. Like in stories, we too, find our place in the grand narrative of life.

Beyond being characters and figures, within ourselves lies something even deeper – personhood. But unlike Fitzgerald’s Gatsby who couldn’t control his destiny, we are persons with free will, aware of the consequences of our actions and free to shape our own story as we go.

We are keepers of our qualities and values. Masters of our fate, and captains of our soul. As Albus Dumbledore said to Harry Potter, “It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Sticking to our core values and principles even when things get tough.

Beyond being your unique self lies something even deeper – presence. Presence can't be copied or accomplished – it's just us being authentically, effortlessly us. This nirvanic layer of personhood manifests when we let go of the need to fit in and learn to be present in our own lives.

As we celebrate Literature Month this April, may we appreciate the depth and nuance inherent in the human experience. We engage with literature, not only to see reflections of our identities but also to catalyze our need for introspection and self-discovery.

May we embrace all our layers – from characters to presences – and find the right balance. As we read and explore our own story, may we delight in discovering what makes us, truly us.*


Joshua Grant T. Empleo, raised in the United Arab Emirates, is a content creator and writer for the Office of Congressman Jose Francisco Kiko Benitez. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of St. La Salle Bacolod and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Management.


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