“Who are you? Tell me who is Hasiya?”

My eyes rested on the dark pair of eyes that was inches away from my face and was deeply fixated on me…his eyes were a pool of concern and curiosity.

His question sounded like something I had heard and responded to a million times before but when Tope asked, it sounded completely foreign to my ears. I bit my inner cheek and reminded myself that his first degree was in psychology. He’s trying to pull one on me.

I was alone with him in a small private study room. My brows creased as I pondered silently, why paint a study room red? Isn’t that like the biggest distraction? I eyed the clock behind his back. Normally by this hour I would be getting off the train and close to reaching my apartment. We bumped into each other on my way back to the station from uni. We haven’t seen or spoken in over a year. He tried to keep in touch but I was my ever distant self. Alright I’ll confess, I did see him the week before at the library but i swerved him at just the right second…he didn’t have to know that. When he saw me he noticed something was off with me and he requested that I talk and have coffee with him. I was a second away from giving my default answer but I thought twice of it. In my current mood, having company sounded like a better idea than being alone in my apartment, so I took him up on his offer. Plus, his company was one I always found intriguing; his mind was way beyond his age.

I looked down at the hot drink in my hand….cinnamon hot chocolate with cream on top; my favourite but for the first time I wasn’t enjoying it. It tasted like liquid chalk.

“Do you have to lean so close to my face?” I spat out. As soon as the words escaped my mouth I felt embarrassed.

“Oh I’m sorry” he chuckled and rested his back against his chair.

I sighed. Why was I finding it so hard to answer his question? Just say whatever comes to your mind, I told myself.

“Uhmm I’m Hasiya, I’m 19 years old and the second born in my family…there’s not really much to say about me. I don’t like attention…i’m drawn to the dark; it’s peaceful and I find that the night is the time i’m most awake or should i say alive? I don’t like busy places….I love the moon….”

“Jesus Christ…” Tope buried his face in his hands. “Hasiya are you even normal? I asked who you are and you tell me you love the dark and the moon…” I blinked a couple of times….dazed by my own stupidity.

“Perhaps you should ask a more direct question..if there is something in particular you want to know…”

“No. First of all you are not any of the things you said you are.” I had to bite back the great urge to slap him, who was he to tell me who I was or wasn’t? “That’s not what makes you who you are. That’s what you think you are.” I stared back at the 24 year old…where was he going with this?

“You being your parents second born doesn’t make you who you are. The fact that you find comfort at night instead of the day doesn’t make you who you are. Your practicing islam and identifying yourself as a muslim doesn’t even say who you are.”

“So what does?” I asked.

“Nothing does” I wanted to laugh but it would have taken too much energy – energy I honestly lacked at the moment, the best I could do was tear up.

“You are who you are when no one is watching. You are who you are when you don’t have to fit or conform to anything. You are who you are without any limitswho you are is not limited to your likes and dislikes or the many roles you’ll have to play at some point in this life such as a daughter, student, wife or mother.”

Interesting…I thought silently.

“Who is Tope then?” I asked curious to hear his answer.

He smiled. “This isn’t about me…I can go on to tell you and we can have a conversation about that some other day but today is about you alone.”

Hmmm…how convenient.

“But I want to reply to some of the things you said earlier.” he leaned forward.

“You said you don’t like attention but surely you must know that that’s nearly impossible for someone like you. If I was to tell you right now that you’re beautiful and I think you have a really nice smile how would you feel?”

Why is it that I hardly ever have normal conversations with people? I crossed my legs and sat up straighter.


“Yes I know..and by the way I meant it but that’s not the point. We normally just don’t like or dislike things for the sake of it. You not liking attention for example must be based on something…it could be an insecurity of yours or perhaps an incident that happened in your past that caused you to think you don’t like it or perhaps it’s your religion (he pointed at my head scarf) that tells you to cover. By covering, you hide parts of yourself and things that are hidden inherently don’t want to be seen or noticed so it makes sense why you don’t like attention. I’ll give you a simple example. Someone that says i don’t like bananas…they weren’t born like that; they just had a bad experience with the banana. Perhaps it was the rotten smell or they slipped on it, its colour, texture or weird shape that put them off…something must have affected their reason for not liking it. The point i’m getting at is that you can always change who you are. Who you are is not a fixed person. The things you currently do not like don’t define you because you can always go back to search why and see if it can be changed and the things you currently like, you could grow to hate them in the future. “

“I see….so what you are trying to say in other words is that our experiences in life and whatever we gain or loose from them, they don’t define who we are.”

“Exactly! You nailed it.” he grinned widely.

“I beg to disagree. I read somewhere and I personally believe this to be true that all your life experiences shape you into the person you are today. So every information you’ve ever come across, every conversation you’ve had, every decision you’ve made, every problem you’ve encountered in life and individuals you’ve crossed paths with they have all in some shape or form moulded you into who you are today.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the ring of my phone. One look at the caller ID and I was reminded of the crappy day I had and the difficult conversation I was yet to have with the caller.

Tope and I spoke later that night on the phone, but we never got to finish our conversation. He did raise something in our later conversation that marks it as one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with him thus far.

I do understand what Tope was trying to tell me that night. Human beings are very dynamic creatures. So unlike certain animals that can only adapt in certain environments and conditions (that could act as limits), human beings are more flexible.

Human beings can literally be who they want to be and I don’t mean expensive ideas like a person wanting to fly and grow wings or gills that would help him breathe under water. I mean things like if you want to be an acrobat you can. If you want to be an award winning florist you can. If you want to communicate using hieroglyphs you can. If you want to live a nomad lifestyle you can. You are made up of more than a body and a soul. You’ve got this amazing thing called a mind and time; two things you absolutely cannot make a compromise on.

The reason is this, with your mind (irrespective of how big or small it is) you can build your future and work hard towards making it your reality. With your mind you can determine who you want to be. With time on the other hand, you can push and test yourself. Don’t you want to know your limits? Your capabilities? It is to put it very lightly tragic if you sit ideally and not take advantage of your time. Time is really the only thing you have that a dead person doesn’t. You have time to fail and succeed at things. Time to wound and heal yourself. Time to learn and unlearn things. Time to give and take. Time never remain still, why? If it does then you are exactly who you are at that moment forever and nothing else and that’s truly worthless. You cannot be better or be more. As long as time keeps ticking you can be whoever you want to be, but you can also choose to be the person you were at 5 o’clock this morning, or 2 weeks ago, or 5 years ago.

There are some half truths in what Tope and I exchanged that evening in the study room. We both had two contrasting opinions about who a person is.

I was of the opinion that a personal is basically a summary of their whole life experience. Technically this is true but honestly you don’t have to be. One shouldn’t be defined by their history but human beings get a kick out of digging a person’s history and judging them by something that happened in their past or simply linking things to the past because the past is really all we know for sure. I know people who lived their whole life as victims of their past experience or childhood or mistake and it destroyed them. I sincerely wish it were easy to let go of the past and not allow it affect our present. On the other hand, the past isn’t always a bad thing. For some people the past lies the good memories. They re-live it and hold on to it oh so dearly. The problem with that is that time is moving and the past can never be returned to. Eventually you will have to accept that things aren’t and can never be the way they were. This is okay if you believe in your heart that things can be better than the way they were.

Tope on the other hand was of the opinion that a person is who they are when no one is watching. This I believe is a basic/standard truth everyone knows. What is more interesting is the fact that Tope believes a person is who they really are without any limits…that is who you are is not limited to your likes and dislikes or the many roles you’ll have to play at some point in this life. I could buy into that philosophical thought but if that really were the case, one can never truly answer the question of ‘who are you’.

If i thought the same way Tope did or shared his own philosophical idea on the topic, I would have answered his earlier question of who is hasiya, by saying Hasiya is no-one and anything. It sounds crazy but that really is the answer. I respect Tope’s ideas but I argue that there are limits in life and those limits help us define things and ultimately who we are.

For example there’s a limit to how long a person can stay awake. Hasiya is human because she needs her 5-8 hours of sleep to function properly and that limit is what differentiates me from a tree (that needs no sleep). Hasiya is terrified of dogs. Whenever she sees them her heartbeat jumps from a 10 to a 1000 and her limbs become weak this limit of her warmth or affection towards dogs is what differentiates her from Dr Dolittle. Hasiya doesn’t like jelly because she’s allergic to them. Her lips swell up and her body temperature rises. This limit of hers helps to define her diet and health. All these little things add up and they do define who i am but who i am is not restricted to just those things, if you understand what i’m saying. Whether Tope likes it or not there are limits in life and a person IS who they are based on their individual limit and capacity.

I honestly don’t know if i’ve been articulate enough or i’m making sense to you at all but i just felt this was a good thing to talk about. The question of who are you is a very deep question and not many people stop to really think about it. I know people that can easily tell you who they are in their sleep and others that can’t and would take personality tests to find out. If after however old you are, you don’t know who you are, then it means you’ve compromised your mind and time and my only suggestion is that you stop doing that this very second and spend a greater part of your life trying to find out so you can live a much more fulfilling life. Self awareness can never be underrated.

I’d love to read some of your personal opinions about this topic and I challenge you all to tell a dear friend or family member who you are, and hear what they have to say.

I wish you all a fantastic weekend 😀

Much Love,

Tnéne x

4 thoughts on “Therapeutic

  1. This is a really great write up that encourages self-reflection.

    I think both yourself and Tope are right to an extent in the sense that because dogs frighten Hasiya, that doesn’t mean she can not learn to overcome the fear of dogs. As humans and as Tope rightly said our minds are very flexible and can adapt to ‘change’ with time.

    Also, I would agree with you that there is no definite answer to the question ‘Who are you?’. I believe ‘Who I am” is a complex combination of me when no one is watching and myself formed up of experiences, beliefs, likes, and dislikes.

    All of these which are open to change because I have a mind and time, so who I am today can differ greatly from who I am tomorrow.

    I hope I made some sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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