The Identity Project


Can I be free?

They snatch at my throat, I am silenced

If only for one last breath,

one last sigh…

Do they hear me?

And in the darkness of the night

May I be heard?

It burns

The question rising,

Rising up my throat

Leaping from my


It begins as a whisper,

I shove it down

But the bile keeps on rising,

Longing to be freed

Can you hear me?

It started as a whisper

If only I could see,

It rises, pushing once more

It is a


The tears are blinding

Years flash by my glistening eyes

Who are you?

Who are you?

Years of being told to sit


Silence. Now.

For years the question has burned

At the back of my mind

I was taught to hold it there.

I didn’t give up

It rose every time

I tried to push it back down,

It leapt up

Now we all stand here.


Our hearts so fragile, our minds

So new…

And yet they are tainted

By the hatred and the


And the fear

I used to ask myself,

What mask?

How can you


And in this place,

So many spirits

Have been


Here they clutch the

Shards protruding their

Fragile hearts and

Drive them deeper

I search my soul- Did I do enough?

Did we live enough?

Can I be enough?

Am I enough?

Here they reach for me

Desperate to initiate the

One. Free. Soul


They hold up lenses,

the masks of

Our future,

They try them on.

If you prefer a,

This algorithm will calculate your


You may pick up your identity at table 2.

Here is your plan to success.

There is one way and one way only.

Here are our commandments,

No connection to religion of course…

Take class x to find future


Apply to a-z.

Yes, according to the department of “Every Teenager is the Same and They all Strive for the Same Goals in Life”, that is indeed a good choice.

Search for community service hour opportunities.

You are our perfect little


“Can I include this on my application?”

We are a distinguished body of individuals.

We provide the best


What about my education?

Your letters will be here in May.

Each day I walk by,

The chains of the gray faces

That trudge on are carved

In stone

“I can’t wait for college.”

“I have six more months.”

“I won’t look back.”

“Am I ready?”

Is there no hope?

What about the light that

Pierces the


They come from behind,

Forcing their way down my throat.

Every student is the same.

We aren’t all the same…

We are not.

What has our world done?

Developed as standards rule the


I heard them talking,

The politics that drone on

As the sun rises and falls

In the sky

What have we done?

What have we become?

Is self-discovery too much of a price to


Here, the faces of the

Future are




I will not be defined by the

Masks that hide our pain

For that simply makes us


We can turn away,

Faces among the masses

Our voices drown out by the steady drone of


Or we may peel away the layers

Of such mediocrities

To be free…

To soar within the sky

For our wings have not been clipped

But are merely dormant

Each day we must rewrite the pages

of history

For this is not our story…

Hello my name is stressed.

Hello my name is anxious.

Hello my name is lonely.

Hello my name is depressed.

Hello my name is broken,

I. Am.

broken beyond repair

…or so they tell me

Out of the ashes of the

Silence burned,

Scars and bruises remain.

Our gashes long opened, but healing follows pain.

And with that sweltering question,

The darkness looming inside…

I can be freed

Because my worth is not rooted in the ways of this world.

Hello my name is…

About Identity

Who are you? Who am I? It seems so simple and yet those three words run so deeply… As we grow up, we must come to terms with the opportunity we each have to find our own way. In such a crucial time in all of our lives, this period of self-discovery is essential to our development and creation of identity. As, Teenagers and the Struggle for Identity describes, “‘Who am I?’ is a question oft-repeated by teenagers, though they may not voice it out loud or use precisely those words. One of the biggest challenges that they face during the transition between childhood and adulthood is this struggle with their own sense of identity.” So often our voices are silenced by those within our world. As we struggle to find the purpose within ourselves, the expectation of our role models, parents, and peers often weighs heavily upon our shoulders. The article, Six Ways to Build your Teen’s Identity, explains the struggle teenage students face in our quest to forge individuality in such a demanding world, stating “In many ways, American teens have never had it tougher…Building our teens’ identity is a long process. The Great Wall of China took years of extensive labor before it fended off enemies. Our teens live in a hostile culture too.” The desire for perfection rages within as the spirits of those in our lives whisper of goals not pursued, distant loves not chased, and fading dreams.

The presented poem and accompanying photographs live as a testament to the struggle of young men and women as we fight to make a place for ourselves in our world. Confronting the hardships challenged by the faces of tomorrow, the work questions the turning of bright faces as we transition into adulthood. Inspiration was found in my personal struggle to find myself, my purpose, and my calling as I mature and have begun to contemplate my future and revisit the lessons of my past. The piece was born out of my frustration not only with the American school system, but with the weary souls that surround me. Among the most prevalent stances at the forefront of my mind concerns both the physical and mental wellbeing of students across the globe. As stated by Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools, “Developing awareness, understanding and respect for what matters to students has become critical in education today because ‘learning can no longer be understood as a one-way exchange where we teach, they learn.’ Rather, ‘it is a reciprocal process that requires teachers to help students learn with understanding.’” Sam Savage writes in The Cultural Identity of Students: What Teachers Should Know, “The teacher can meet students’ needs by modeling a concerned attitude for the wellbeing of students and by creating a caring environment where students feel valued and appreciated”, in response to approaching the fragile development of student identity in the school environment. So often have I witnessed the longing glances of those seasoned, educators and students alike, as they reminisce of time passed, or the heavy sighs of the tattered souls and tired faces whose passion has gone dry along with their youthful vigor. The line, “Here the faces of the future are turning gray” was written as a cry to those in my world lacking the mindset of productivity, the idea that each individual may indeed make a difference. Each day I struggle with the choice to diverge onto the path of the weary and the coward, the road so many in our lives have taken, the life so many have accepted without a second glance behind at the purpose within themselves. Perhaps I have been labeled naïve per my belief that I may one day change the world, that this standard path laid out by faceless men and women in black suits from on high is not meant for me. Though somehow, if by fate or a greater design, I continue each day on the road less traveled by, in the words of Robert Frost.

Creative writing, with poetry as my favored medium, has served as an outlet for my inner creativity, a means of confronting the injustices of our world, and a mechanism for self-discovery. Each struggle is reborn into the form of the words that flow freely from my mind to the page, leaping from the cries of my heart. It is my belief that through words, one may be set free. With every phrase, I cry out to my people, to my world. To the student sitting at the back of the classroom. To our leaders who weep at night for our country and for society. To those at both the highest office in the sky and those working down below. To the son who holds his mother in his arms and the daughter with letters in hand. To the mothers and the fathers and the man on the side of the street, still lonely. To the orphans across the world or in our own backyard. To the woman who was hurt but cannot not speak and the teenager sitting on the bathroom floor crying with the bottle of something nasty at their side and the starving missionary and the weary children… With my words I cry out to them. I cry out to you, the ordinary people in our lives who are so often overlooked. I see you. I hear your voices. I want to reach out and wipe away your tears when no one else will because that is what we were designed to do. We will all make mistakes. We will laugh and we will cry. These labels we cling to so dearly as a society and a body of individuals are merely a reflection of our past, the lessons we have learned, and the lives we have chosen to live. If we were to meet, all of the people of the world in one place, would we dance or would we grieve for those among us and for ourselves who have all tasted the fruits of humanity? For in small ways I have felt your pain and the fear and the grief inside of you. For that, despite the darkness cloaking each one of us, is what binds us together, no matter the distance we are apart. We may conform to the standards and the lies formed by “everyone” and yet no one at all, or we may rise up.

Each day as we wake to the rise of the sun and the hope of a future unseen, we are challenged by the call within our hearts. As the music begins to fade, we must cling to that which makes us unique, faced by the opportunity to make our mark on the world in which we live. Despite the invading voices, clawing at our hearts and tugging at our minds, it is essential that we persevere against all odds. Following the light of who we truly are, not merely who we were trained to be, we may find ourselves in our courage to continue on in the journey of life. If we only have the courage to pierce the silence, to speak, the light will follow. Hello, my name is…


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