My fragmented identity

Story by Ellie Nakamura
Print Managing Editor

As I smothered the last bit of gloss onto my lips, already tinged a violently bright red, I looked into the mirror and couldn’t recognize the person reflected. It was as strange as looking into the mirror when I woke up in the morning and only seeing white, disrupted by two dark eyes staring back at me. The technical term is depersonalization — the sense that you are not your body.

I’ve caught myself wondering how much of my physical being I could lose before I cease to be “Ellie.” As my body and mind have changed throughout the years, I can’t keep up with the transformation and in the midst of my survival have lost any consciousness of my current being.

My middle school self had more confidence than that of my high school years combined, and senior year has left me floundering in a time when I should be able to write essays about who I am. There’s a stark reality that everything — the people you sit by in classes, the bad grade you get on a math test, the hallway crush that you make an embarrassing amount of eye contact with — is temporary, especially senior year.

It’s nostalgic and freeing to realize that you are a miniscule part of everyone’s life and soon enough will be consigned to oblivion, only remembered when they find your portrait in the yearbook or they come back to South Pas and you happen to stumble upon each other at a grocery store like those random celebrity sightings.

I find that, due to this realization, I’ve shed a lot of the fear caused by longevity, the idea that people will remember you and what you’ve done, and become careless. I spent so long curating myself into someone that I thought people would like, that could do less wrong, to be someone that people want and I imagine as my ideal that I’ve lost who I am now. In short, I don’t like the person I’ve become.

I prided myself as someone that didn’t cause trouble, that was easily overlooked and unequivocally good but once I lost the perfect grades, my closest friends, and was caught in more issues than ever before within the first couple weeks of my final year of high school, my identity completely dissolved. Everyone wants to hear a story about how I rose up from the ashes but I’ve spiraled to the point of which I cannot think of one word to describe myself, positive or negative, that was not completely taken from how others see me.

I don’t know where I lost it all, but I’ve laid awake at night thinking about what I could’ve done to avoid becoming whatever I am now. As we approach the peak of college application season, it’s striking that I cannot find anything to write about myself because I cannot even recognize my own reflection and acknowledge it as a part of my physical being in a way that anyone would want.

I can’t say I hate myself, but I’ve lost the parts of myself I could fondly identify. In a haze, I cut and dyed my hair, covered my face in powder and foundation until the red that blemishes my skin is gone, and marked my body with white lines. I’ve gnawed the inside of my cheek until it bled to tell myself I am here and yet the taste of my own blood and rough scarring has yet to confirm my existence. If my body is gone, I’d still exist in the minds of others, but I cannot say it’s me.

I could be poetic and say I am the creases in the sac room couch and biting remarks and shivers on an overcast day but I cannot say it is truly a reflection of who I am. I can cut my hair shorter, redye it another color but the only thing I can say is that my hair is short and discolored, as temporary as cutting it all off. In my last years as Ellie, recognizable as that ASB or club girl, or maybe nobody at all, I must continue the pretense and live in my body, covering it with blush and marks until I can see an accurate reflection.

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