A Thousand and One Pieces
By Galia Shkedi
A reflective personal essay on identity and the impossibility of describing oneself in any less than a thousand and one pieces.
“What makes you you?” The sound of those words makes my mind shut down. I could be shallow and talk about my appearance, dive a little deeper and discuss interests, or even attempt to illustrate my personality. The possibilities are endless, no guidelines in sight. “What makes you you?” isn’t just an open-ended question, it’s never ending.
I love listening to music, playing classical piano, and learning jazz pieces on the alto saxophone. I love my friends, my dog, and writing whatever is in my head. Yet none of those things are enough to define me.
I am a rambler, I jump from topic to topic, the list of traits goes on and on. My ADHD diagnosis wasn’t a life changing event, but rather a new title. Some of the traits that I had considered purely my own, simply who I am, were now chalked up to a diagnosis. That day merely gave me an understanding of how I feel and why I live my life the way I do, but that title won’t take away how those traits have shaped me and are an essential part of me. My diagnosis simply added one more word to the list of things that define me, the ever-changing list.
Every choice can impact our lives, our personalities, or our well-being, in ways we don’t even notice. We go about our day, making seemingly meaningless decisions, not noticing how by the end of the night, we’ve already become a slightly different person. A single moment in time can transform your life; as each moment and change accumulates, you are constantly shifting. Even if the changes are minimal, we become new people every day, only later noticing how those changes became drastic.
February 3rd, 2021, I was crossing the street with my dog and a lady speeding around the corner wasn’t paying attention to the road. I looked both ways, I used a crosswalk, I had a green light. I never expected that she would hit me and Jamie, my puppy. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t think about what the future implications would be, only the shock and adrenaline coursing through my body, the distant, dull, and yet sharply throbbing pain in my ankle. The only thing I heard was my dog screaming, the pedestrian across the street yelling to get the license plate, and my thundering thoughts.
Jamie pulled us out of the way, leaving him traumatized and with a minor injury. Even once my bone contusion and my minor tendon tear healed, the fire in my foot remained. The pins and needles and sharp, stabbing pain took me farther and farther away from the activities I loved. There were no more long walks, jogs, daily workouts, or playing with my puppy. Despite all the time that has passed, the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) it left me with has pushed me to work harder than ever, taking daily steps towards recovery. There is no doubt that my quality of life and function have dramatically improved, but there is no ignoring how that day created a drastic shift in my life, my perspective, and who I’ve become.
Every day before and after the accident has changed me, even if it wasn’t in such a blatant way. As humans, we are constantly shifting, changing, and evolving into different people. Our perspective on every situation changes with experience, transforming who we are every minute. It is impossible to put that into just a few words.
Everything I do makes me who I am, but no single thing can describe me. My mind runs a mile a minute, every thought, every question, becoming a story. There is no single question that can be solved with a definitive answer, only a narrative. Every thought, every trait, and every action are what give me the freedom to write, to live, to breathe. I can analyze a text, or even my own words, but that detailed analysis will not encompass who I truly am.
“What makes you you?” is not an open-ended question, it is an impossible one. There are a thousand and one fragments that build up a person, a thousand and one things that shaped them into who they are, and a thousand and one stories behind them. There is no sole thing that describes me, and there never will be. So my answer to “What makes you you?”, is a thousand and one different pieces, and nothing less.
I started writing this piece during one of the initial workshops of last year’s Writing Works program. I slowly built on it throughout the year and submitted it to Girls Write Now in June 2021. When I started working with my mentor, Laura, in September of this year, I decided I wanted to go back to this piece. A considerable amount of time had passed and my perspective had changed. Being as this is a personal essay and reflection on me as a person and what builds up my identity, I wanted to rewrite it in a way that fits me now, over six months later. After an extensive amount of editing with the support of Laura, I finally had a finished, up-to-date, and much more accurate piece that suits me and who I am now.
Galia Shkedi is a teen in high school whose main interests are writing, music and cuddling her dog. Whether it's journalism, poetry or a personal essay, she views writing as a way to transfer her thoughts onto a page, and share whatever story is worth telling to the world.