That scary thought experiment aside, we’re still left with the meaning of identity, both for you and for me.
It doesn’t seem like identities are going away anytime soon. So what are we supposed to do about this in the meantime?
Here’s my humble suggestion.
You, first and foremost, get to choose your own identity, but you do so with the tacit acknowledgment that any person, at any time, can come by and disrupt your understanding yourself.
It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It’s simply the acceptance of this fragile and uncertain world we live in. But you get to have the first shot at your identity.
Next, you must remember your context.
You must think about how your identity is affected by your relationships and by environmental and cultural factors. Failing to realize this is a failure to understand part of your identity.
For some people, this is not to be accepted. They don’t want to believe that something such as their environment can dictate who they are. That’s fine, but it’s still there in the background.
Finally, deep down, you must also remember this.
You are you. You have the power, even if it’s only in subtle ways at first, to shift your context and shift your identity. Even if it’s only in your mind to start. Even if you initially feel you can’t really change.
Your identity is a malleable thing.
It may change from year to year–or even from month to month.
But that’s up to you.
It’s always, at the heart of it, up to you.