/Ai/ pro. First person singular personal pronoun. Used to refer to oneself in Modern English. As in: How am I me if I am but: a grouping of flesh, a dance of neurons and synapses, a swirl of consciousness that transcends mass and explanation, a jabbering voice in my head, a person hidden within my body that likes and dislikes, feels emotions and is aware of the senses, sees my body’s reflection in a mirror and, struck with sudden unfamiliarity, asks: “Is that really what I look like?”
As in: I am a copy of a copy of a copy of a…I am living in the shadows of those before me, speaking in the echoes of past voices, writing words upon words that came before. My thoughts are not just my thoughts. My appearance is not solely my own. My body is not mine to keep. My cells are constantly shed, created, and recycled. My matter is that of my ancestors in the earth, of stones, of dinosaurs, of mac-n-cheese, of sheep and trees and comets in space. How am I different from anyone? We are all made of recycled matter from ancestors, dinosaurs, and mac-n-cheese.
As in: Does what I do define me? Am I defined by names?
Jason, Sallie, Kristen, Tyler.
Thief, Mother, Savior, Son.
As in: Do I define myself? Do you define me?
“I am a person who likes cats.”
“You are a lunatic.”
As in: I don’t know what I am, how I am, or who defines me. But I do know, as surely as the sun warms the back of my wind-chilled neck and as surely as I feel the sting of a wasp in my heart when someone says, “You are nothing…”
I exist. I am me.