Who Am I

Leo
6 min readApr 20, 2021

A self-reflection piece on self-identity.

Writer’s note: This was written in late December 2019 when I was reflecting and questioning my self-identity and the different versions of myself that I’ve portrayed so far. This will read very diary-like (stream of consciousness) and was never intended for publication. I find power in vulnerability, which is why I ultimately decided to publish this on my very public medium.

Almost a year later, I find myself in the same predicament of being 23 and unemployed. I hope that this piece inspires you to self-reflect on your life and the different versions of yourself that you’ve shown to the world so far.

Here’s yet another piece of my soul, internet.

This piece has been edited for clarity.

Who Am I?

A common question that many people ask themselves all the time. Perhaps more prevalent when one is going through a major change in their lives or when going through an identity crisis.

As a 22-year-old currently struggling to find full-time employment and am on the verge of being cut off financially by my father, this question came to mind while having my usual smoke in the stairwell outside my condo unit on a relatively chilly Sunday night.

Given that my formative years were spent in Melbourne — a completely different culture to Singapore — I never really questioned my identity. Often, I would imagine what kind of person I would become had I stayed in Singapore to complete my education instead of going overseas. After many discussions with friends, most would agree that personality-wise, there probably would not be much of a difference.

Perhaps the biggest difference would lie in cultural exposure and the confidence in my morals and beliefs. And maybe my willingness in expressing my opinions and thoughts, because god forbid, I go against the norm and stand out in a crowd in Singapore.

When asking myself Who am I?, three versions of myself come to mind. Min, Leona and Leo.

Min is the eldest of three children, the angry, misunderstood and emotionally traumatised daughter.

My mother calls me Min. I don’t have the best relationship with my mother. On a rational and logical level, I understand to a certain degree that my mother raised me to the best of her knowledge, and I shouldn’t be so hard on her. I mean after all, she is my mother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and am thankful for all the sacrifice she has made. But after going through adult therapy for the first time in my life during my final year of university and discovering all the childhood trauma that has affected me the way it has, it’s hard to not be resentful.

In no way does this feeling of resentment keep me awake at night or prevents me from communicating with my mother. I know that I should go to therapy to address my issues. But for someone who wants to pay for therapy herself, I simply cannot afford it right now.

Leona. Oh, Leona. Leona is what most people call me by, it is after all, my birth name and not one that can be easily forgotten, due to the uniqueness of the name and also how easy it is to pronounce.

Lee-oh-na.

There are many phases to Leona.

Leona reminds me of teenage angst, being misunderstood and being overtly emotional like it’s a bad thing. Thinking about my birthname now reminds me of how sad and lonely I was in secondary school. How for the most part I was outcasted by my classmates and had shite grades. Leona reminds me of how much I didn’t belong, how different I was amongst my classmates. Leona reminds me of how sad I was as a 13-year-old. Secondary school Leona reminds me of how she did not understand why she was being outcasted, why no matter how hard she tried, she could never get good at mathematics and had her first romantic rejection of her life.

16-year-old Leona left for Melbourne and started her 5-year journey of being far from ‘home’. Melbourne Leona was the start of my journey towards self-acceptance, understanding my quirks and embracing my personality and beliefs.

Melbourne Leona truly enjoyed the highest of highs and suffered the lowest of lows. I discovered my love for the laid-back culture in Melbourne and was blessed by brunches and endless amounts of coffee of the best quality. I got into my first ever relationship, suffered the worst that was the pain of one’s first-ever heartbreak and most importantly got my degree.

Often, I would be asked why I came back to Singapore, given how much I would gush about Melbourne at any given chance. My answer has always been consistent, that I’ve missed out too much on my siblings growing up and would very much want to get closer and spend more time with them. That and I was way too comfortable with my lifestyle in Melbourne and knew deep down that while I would be happy, the happiness would be short-lived for I know that I would not be challenged.

In this state of feeling utterly pathetic due to my lack of employment, would I have been able to find a job in Melbourne anyway? Guess I’ll never know.

Leo. One would think, given that my name is a 3 syllabi, 5 letter name, why would I want to shorten it even further? I think it’s because I wanted to reinvent myself in some way. To change my physical appearance would not have been a big enough impact. People already know me for my coloured hair and piercings. So, I decided to adopt Leo more consciously as I started my professional career in 2019.

Prior to 2019, I had been Leo to my father. The nickname that he’d address me by since young. I was Leo to my ex male housemate’s friends, in hopes of appearing more ‘bro’ and laid back.

Nowadays, even in a non-professional setting, when meeting new people, I would introduce myself as Leo. Oddly enough, Leona feels way too intimate. As I struggle to articulate my thoughts on being addressed as Leona, I thought the best way would be to put it simply; I have reached a point where I want those around me to earn the right to call me Leona. But I also recognise on a logical level, it would be counterintuitive to first know me as Leo, followed by Leona. Because Leo is just so much easier and shorter of a name.

But I’m sure for those in the future who I’ve granted the ‘right’ to call me Leona would hopefully make the effort to make the change. I mean it’s just 3 more letters.

Professional Leo has served 3 internships and one intense part-time job in 2019. I’ve been applying for full-time jobs non-stop since the end of November. It is almost the end of December and I’ve had nothing but rejections.

I understand that rejection is a very big part of the process and one day I will eventually land a job.

Eventually.

I am making an effort to stay mindful and remind myself that this is somewhat normal but it’s hard when the people around you are thriving and I’ve been nothing but rejected.

Hello, doubt my old friend.

So I would say on a fundamental level I am Min the angry daughter, Leona who experienced so much so far and Leo the 22-year-old frustrated with her lack of employment.

Here’s to landing a job soon, I just want to survive.

--

--

Leo

Way too curious for my own good, a baby nihilist and writer of sorts.