What's the rush?
There's too much pressure
to figure out our "identity"
December 8, 2004
I was very intrigued when I
came across Arash Emamzadeh's "A
simple question," aimed at understanding the identity of
individuals of Iranian decent. I hope that
humble response may be of some help to those who at one point or other
must resolve this question.
The process of searching for and questioning your
identity is not always a burdensome task. It is however, in
my opinion, somewhat problematic in that
there is no universal truth to be found. One individual's terms of understanding
his/her identity may not necessarily translate into a viable solution for
Having said this, I want only to share my personal
experience with you, knowing
that what I assert as my understanding of my own Iranian-something-something
identity may or may not be of help.
First of all, I have a slight problem with the word "identity." I
should say rather that my concern comes from the overwhelming pressure
put on individuals
to find/have/figure out their "identity." It seems that if you
haven't discovered it yet, or are in the process of searching for something
outside yourself, that you have somehow missed the boat. This pressure can
frustrate, more than motivate you in understanding yourself.
a matter of timing: was the identity I carved out for myself at 20
relevant at 25, 30, and 35? What I am trying to say is that
there is no definite
point in anybody's life when this matter is completely figured out. I'll
give you a brief example.
In my childhood years when I first
I embraced everything new, rationalizing that I was never going to forget
where I came from
and my love for Iran. By the time I became a teenager, my Farsi was disintegrating
and I denied being Iranian at all.
In my twenties I found my
life rather barren
with no real sense of heritage and I searched desperately for
something, a sense of self, that I could call my own. I stayed in university
years and put all my effort into re-learning the history of Iran and its
neighbors, re-learning Farsi (properly this time) and getting actively
involved in all matters
related to Iranian culture form social studies to politics and economics.
I learned to think critically and question myself
and my relation to the world. This has been an enormously
lengthy journey, with many obstacles and even more phone calls
about why I abandoned
to study "Iranian
things" when I don't live in Iran. The point is that there really
is no rush to find the answer to the question of identity. It's an evolving
process, a constant negotiation if you will, where you learn about yourself.
As for the "Persian" versus "Iranian" classifications
of identity, it really doesn't matter. As much as scholars or anyone
try to persuade you of the usefulness of one or the other, I have abandoned
both. There is no framework that limikts the use of Persian or Iranian,
what many semi-scholars might want you to believe. It's a play with words
meant to confuse you rather than help. And frankly
I don't appreciate the divisions it creates. Rather that highlighting
what people have in common, these debates create false separations
not worth entertaining.
"being of Iranian origion" means. We Iranians are very patriotic
about our homeland. We appreciate its diverse
and natural beauty. We are also, by nature, very persistent.
We have faces enormous struggles in all spheres of
life. We value
culture, history, and art, because it offers a sense of stability and
hope. More than
that, we value hard work and determination because it's a winning
formula that strengthens us as individuals and
I hope you reflect on yourself with a sense
of calm. Give yourself
the process of finding yourself and your "identity" at
every stage in life.