The nature of identity

One of my favorite television shows is the recently cancelled “Dollhouse.” An examination of the nature of identity and the existence of the human soul, set in a not-so-fictional real-world that questions the relationship between these two core ideas and tangibles like society, technology, greed, desire, and commerce, “Dollhouse” stands as a work of art that forces us to examine our own works of self-art.

I bring this show up because I just watched the series finale for the second or third time, months after it aired, just for the heck of it. And not only did it blow me away, but it strummed at deeply rooted sentiments within me, triggering a certain feeling of emptiness, or perhaps loneliness. And I find myself asking, for the thousandth time, but also for the first: who am I? What makes me me? If everything about my life – my memories, personality, profession, goals, dreams – were wiped away, what would be left? How much of who we are is inherent to us and how much is acquired by nurture rather than born of nature?

And besides the attendant philosophical ruminations and discussions that his sparks, these questions also leave me wondering whether and how much we owe to ourselves to define – to brand – ourselves by our core being versus who we hope to shape ourselves to be. And must there only be one definition? How much of our brand stands on its own and how much is tied to other parts of us and elements beyond ourselves?

These are questions that I have been asking myself a lot lately. The launch of Hungry Heather brought my self-built identity of what I call “intellectual foodie” (founded on a love of food and conscientious eating that has been a consistent part of my desires and interests since childhood) to the fore, interacting with my professional identity as a reporter (founded on a life-long sense of curiosity and desire for understanding details and context). Getting to this basic brand structure took weeks of reflection and doubt, and now that it exists, is taking on new meaning. Now I’m figuring out how to stay true to my brand – the one that exists within me, but not yet on the page. As I change, so too will the brand change. I’m working on accepting that I can’t know now what the later stages will be like.

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