Who Hasn’t…Had an Identity Crisis?

December 22, 2010

When I was in grad school, one of our journalism instructors told us that we were not, under any circumstance, to begin a story with “Who hasn’t…?” as this invites the reader to say, “Well, no, actually, I haven’t grown a giant carnivorous plant that developed a taste for roast turkey but ended up munching on the family dog. So this story must not pertain to me.” Then you lose the reader, lose your job, lose your house, lose your dog in a freak flesh-eating plant accident, etc. It’s all very dreary.

So I’m well-aware that this is not ‘good practice’ journalism per se, but I feel that this really is something that many people go through, whether they are Asian American or WASP, young or old. So here it is: Who hasn’t ever experienced an identity crisis? (And honestly, if you haven’t… well, good for you, being so well-adjusted and all.)

Recently, one of my college friends, Edward Hong, released a video poem based on that premise on the I AM KOREAN AMERICAN website. Incidentally, it is also called I AM KOREAN AMERICAN. The video is currently hosted on YouTube by Steve Nguyen of ChannelAPA.

“My goal with this poem is to show viewers who identify themselves as Asian American know that having an identity crisis is not stupid or shameful,” Hong said. “But ultimately, I want those, whether Asian, Black, Latino, White, people who have been questioning their identity to realize that they are not alone in what they feel.”

Now, he’s not alone in this endeavor. Theories abound on the topics of identity crisis and development. There are many people out there who are striving for the same thing -- and it’s not always the people that you’d think they’d be.

For instance, pop singer Katy Perry's song "Fireworks" asks:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

Aww. How uplifting. See, even pop stars have identity crises! I did find it a bit ironic to see a bevy of Victoria’s Secret Angels lip sync the song though, seeing as they're gorgeous and...you know...fashion models. But who am I to judge another person’s experiences just because they seem to have everything going for them?

The internal crisis experienced by someone doesn’t necessarily manifest in ways that are obvious to an outsider. Not to sound too counselor-y, but I do think it’s important not to disregard someone’s life solutions just because they’re not the same as our own.

As for Hong, he says, “I want them to look at this message about taking your demons and accepting them into your own lives so you can learn to truly love yourself and love others.”

Well… who hasn’t wanted that?