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Creative Nonfiction High School People of Color

Society Shaped 

An Inspirational Short Story by Ana Govindasamy  

It’s normal to be angry and petty and vengeful, right?  We all want to be heard, right? We all have opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I get in trouble for voicing my opinions, I’m not going to be in the wrong, am I? 

Identity is... 

The words stay on the laptop, taunting me, cursor blinking in and out of existence. I wish I could do that. I wish I could disappear and appear whenever I wanted.  

It’s midnight. 

I need sleep. 

It’s my maths exam tomorrow, I need to revise. But this feels more important. It’s not going to get me a job, get me an A in my GCSEs, get me into Oxford. But it feels right. 

If only I could articulate it. 

Identity is... 

Defined? 

It has a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. 

identity 

/ʌɪˈdɛntɪti/ 

noun 

  • the fact of being who or what a person or thing is

I guess I don't have that. But that’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing it for myself, when revising would be better.  

I should be revising.  

But I force myself to move my fingers onto each key, letters ringing out in the darkness. My pillow is still wet with traces of tears, my throat still sore, phone still warm from the mass texting I’d done to my friends.  

I have amazing friends. I would never be able to put up with me, so how they do is beyond me. 

Identity is 

Dictionary defined 

Human interpreted 

What I used to be, before the reality of my life set into me. Before I realised that politics, history, geography, all actually played a part in my life. That I was different and would forever be. That I couldn’t hide behind my two hours of research just to sound smart.  

And that I’d never be a part of a community. 

It’s human interpreted. It’s a human thing. I’m one or the other. And I am on one side, theoretically, I’m not mixed. 

But, God, if I don’t feel alienated. 

This feels blasphemous. But I know wat the next line will be. It’s the thing that’s been eating away at me at the back of my mind for my entire life. 

And society shaped. 

I didn’t think I could sum up my entire life in a verse of poetry, but I think I just did. 

Do what society says.  

Be girly. 

Like pink. 

Be into maths. 

Like science. 

Be a doctor. 

Aim for Oxford. 

Have high standards.  

And then there’s the real me. The me who's still up, at midnight, in her jeans, procrastinating maths revision with a dumb poem that no-one is going to even read. Who had a mental breakdown five minutes ago. Who knows she’s going to flunk her GCSEs and end up living with her parents for the rest of her life. 

Who’s also starting to cry, because she can’t stop overthinking.  

I think that even she’s allowed to be petty. At least once.  

I wipe my eyes and smash each key. 

I’m everything.  

That’s what I am, 

to my friends 

At least.  


I’m nothing.  

That’s exactly what I am, 

To myself 

At most.  

I started this poem with one objective; to share it. To have a voice. I want to be an activist. And being an activist means breaking rules, or polite societal conventions at least. 

Both things I’ve never done. 

But it’s for a cause I care about. So, I kick my brain into gear, and I start typing. 

Association,  

Stereotypes, 

Misconceptions and misinformation.  

Shape me more that I know. 

I doubt my role models did what they did without backlash. And I need this.  

My reality builds around me, validated by words, woven into my truth. The truth that needs out. I have it good.  

But others have it better.  

The others I sit next to in class, the ones who I spend weekends with, have it much better than me. And that better is in reach for me.  

I just need to write this down. 

That better, that new life without all this doubt, fear, expectations, is more valuable than a good maths score. 

Asia.  

East Asia.  

What’s South Asia? 

Nothing important.  

Not the home of 1.7 billion, anyway 

I can’t be Asian because I’m not Chinese. 

Those words, the ones I still can’t believe came out of someone’s mouth, still stick with me.  

I know they were wrong, because, unlike them, I have basic Geography skills. But it hurts, once it’s paired with all the other things I’ve been told. 

I let these words click together. They complete everything. The emotions I never thought I’d be able to capture, finally coming together.  

Every ignorant thing anyone’s said to me, single sentences that sent me into weeks of self-doubt, find their way into the verses, like snakes, lying in wait.  

I’m going to read this out at school. And that terrifies me. I’m calling out two teachers, three students, and I need to keep my detention record clean.  

Even if I’m not aiming for Oxford.  

I look back over the poem, and my heart flies. 

My voice can finally be heard. No matter how many people it offends. 

They’re not worth my time.  

If I am all of these things, 

but none at all, 

what am I? 

July 09, 2021 17:40

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8 comments

Ana Govindasamy
17:46 Jul 09, 2021

This is based on a true story. I had just gone through one of my biggest identity crises (race-related) and I was feeling really stressed and overwhelmed. I decided to write a poem on it (because writing is the best therapy) and I ended up reciting in front of my school. I was absolutely terrified, considering how it could be seen as slightly controversial, and I was not ready to have my reputation ruined. I called out multiple people's bias and ignorance in that poem, and it was the scariest thing I've done (I was always a good kid who did ...

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That Asian Creep
06:41 Jul 11, 2021

yeah I remember that. woah… long time ago, right? the math score 🥲

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Ana Govindasamy
07:01 Jul 11, 2021

The math score broke me...and yeah, it honestly feels like yesterday. Can't believe it.

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That Asian Creep
09:23 Jul 12, 2021

time flies I guess 🥲

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Ana Govindasamy
10:59 Jul 12, 2021

It really does...

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14:35 Jan 26, 2022

It's always interesting to get a chance to stand in someone else's shoes. Very emotive.

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Svara Narasiah
07:05 Jul 11, 2021

Aww... this was so sweet and sad, I'm so glad you're feeling better now--you are, right? Amazing job <3

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Ana Govindasamy
07:06 Jul 11, 2021

Thanks so much, Svara! Yeah, I am, I definitely have a better sense of self than I did back then.

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