Being deliciously undefinable

Future of Being

I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.

- Franz Kafka

I spent the majority of my first two decades on this planet trying my absolute best to be easily defined. I’d wince when an innocent child in my Year 4 class asked me if I spoke “Indian”; I convinced myself that my reaction was triggered by the fact that “Indian” is, of course, not a language, but it was really because this unassuming 8 year old had called me out for being different (surprise, surprise, I was the only brown kid in the class). In a scholarship interview at the ripe old age of 10, I’d proudly announce that the words my friends and family would use to describe me were “organised” and “ambitious”, because surely those were the two most admirable traits a girl could aim to embody at such a tender age? At 18, I worked harder than I ever had to get into the University of Oxford, a dream internalised by 11 year old me when my parents had nostalgically told me of the time they’d gone on a day trip to Oxford after immigrating from India and had dreamed of the day when one of their children could study among the dreaming spires. At 22, I accepted a job that was a bit edgy, but wasn’t quite radical enough to exist outside of the box of acceptable enough by my Goldman Sachs-yearning peers.

At 25, there’s nothing I want less than to be easily defined. It’s taken me a quarter of a century to realise that I don’t have to be what others are so afraid of not being. The message we’re given is: the easier it is for society to understand you, the better you’ll fare in society. But no-one else has to carry the weight of dissonance between who you really are and who others want to think you are. Whether it’s politics, education, social media or your social circle- they all force you to fit within an easily digestible definition of what it means to be a human. But you’re not a chocolate digestive. And you're not meant to be easily digestible.

My question is: why does it matter so much whether people can grasp who we are? As Kafka embodied: the best things evade categorisation. We are inherently non-dual, containing everything everywhere all at once. When we identify with just one thing, we automatically disown the others parts of ourselves, using “or” rather than “and” to describe our diluted identities. Every chance it gets, society uses us a drum, pounding the wholeness out of us to the same humdrum beat: You cannot be both. You cannot be all.

By dismantling the dichotomies within which we have caged ourselves, we can evolve our way into our truest identity. What would it look like to build our careers by design instead of by default? To craft a new vision of a family inspired by imagination rather than indoctrination? To invent a life that’s uniquely ours, rather than inheriting what’s borrowed from others? What would it look like to be deliciously undefinable?

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.

- Bruce Lee
March 4, 2024