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Monday Moments: Who Am I?

Introduced By Amber Hall

Back in January, I was lucky enough to guest-edit an episode on working-class writers for the Alternative Stories And Fake Realities podcast (have a listen here). One of the things that I spoke about in the podcast was my relationship with my working-class roots, and how this relates to my sense of self.

I grew up in a rural, working-class community in the north of England, but I left my hometown and moved to the big city at the age of 18. I got a degree and a ‘good on paper’ job and found myself straddling two wholly different worlds, not quite fitting into either.

I think this idea of identity – however we choose to frame that – is a fitting one to explore in relation to our theme, which continues to be ‘Contradictions: everything has two sides.’ Identity is a funny thing. It’s deeply personal and multifaceted (and often full of contradictions!). We can get a little prickly about it, too, and forget that it’s an unfixed thing. Life can take us away from ourselves, though, if we’re not careful. There have certainly been times I’ve betrayed who I am for other people. Out of shame, out of fear. But one of the ways I make sense of myself is through writing, and I’m sure this is a sentiment shared by others. You can find out who you really are by putting pen to paper, I think.

The pieces I’ve chosen for this month’s page both celebrate and interrogate the idea of selfhood, with each ultimately asking the question: “Who am I?”

First, we have a poem by VESSEL, who explores the notion of authenticity when it comes to our identities, and the fear we have of showing ourselves as we truly are. Titled The Modern Contradiction, it reminded me how pertinent this is in a digital-first world. Our online selves are avatars, pieced together out of the parts we’re willing to share. I think there are huge contradictions in terms of how we express ourselves online and IRL, and it’s important to acknowledge that the self can never really be shown through a screen.

The Modern Contradiction

I have seen humans,
To be
Authentically themselves,
And begin this process.

All the while asking
Onlookers, if
They’re doing it

© VESSEL, 2023

Connect with VESSEL on Twitter: @vessel_poet


Next, Juliet Hanna writes about what wearing a hijab means to her. I love the celebratory tone of the piece and the fact that it says something about how deeply personal our cultural identities are.


Hijabi, I’m hijabi…
I wear a hijab.
It makes me happy.
I’m hijabi.
It’s a right that no one can strip off of me.
No one can touch my feet
I’m hijabi and that’s my identity.

© Juliet Hanna, 2022

Connect with Juliet on Twitter and Instagram: @tanjena_islam


I’m so glad to have a piece on parenthood for my page this month. My dear friends Laurie and Dan welcomed their beautiful baby girl Ari on 15th February, and I wanted to commemorate Ari’s birth here. When you become a parent, it undoubtedly becomes another facet of your identity.  Claire captures this sense that parenthood marks the start of a new chapter (one that’s just as rich in experience!) here.

Our Deputy Editor, Claire Buss, writes about being a mother and what this means to her in terms of her identity. She captures the sense that parenthood marks the start of a new chapter –  one that’s just as rich in experience!

My Life Before Kids

Mummy, did you know Spiderman is from New York?
I have been there.
You have?
Yes, in my life before kids.

Mummy, I didn’t know you could sprint!
I used to run competitively.
You did?
Yes, in my life before kids.

Mummy, have you ever seen a koala?
I have, I held one once.
No way!
Yes, in my life before kids.

Mummy, can you drive?
And ride a motorbike.
Really? When did you learn?
Yes, in my life before kids.

Mummy, have you ever camped?
I have, in a tent and a hammock in the jungle.
You’ve been to the jungle?
Yes, in my life before kids.

Mummy, have you done everything?
Oh no, there’s much more to do.
Will you have time?
Yes, in my life with kids.

© Claire Buss, 2023

Connect with Claire on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok: @Grasshopper2407


In her piece, Regional Voices, Write On! page editor ​​Eithne Cullen reflects on what language and accents mean when we think of our cultural heritage. I think accents are a little contradictory in themselves: sometimes they mask a person’s background, but they can also reveal things about our identity. There are a lot of biases tied to the way people speak, too, and this piece serves as a reminder that we ought to focus on what is being said, not how it’s said.

Regional Voices

Contradictions, regional voices, and cadences…

I met a woman I’d never met before at the weekend. I was able to ask her if she came from the same place as me, purely by her accent. She did. It happened to be the day of the rugby internationals, so she could have seen from my Ireland rugby top or, if she’d looked closely, my Claddagh earrings or my Claddagh ring, that I have Irish heritage, too. But she could never have guessed from my accent.

It’s funny, when I meet people there’s always a conversation about my name: where it comes from, how it’s spelled and so on. And when I tell people I’m Irish, they’re surprised, because of my flat London vowels and my mainly Standard English pronunciation. It’s also funny how many conversations hinge around the ‘funny’ spelling of Irish names (not funny, just different) and the shock I feel when someone says (as someone said to me last week): “I don’t even try.” That’s a shame. These are names from a rich cultural heritage, spelled in the spelling of a language that was once suppressed.

I remember a young man I knew: Irish heritage, holidaying every year in the kind of place you’ll have loved in The Banshees Of Inisherin, studying on an Irish studies course, and being involved in Irish cultural and political groups. But he had a strong Geordie accent and felt outraged at being called a ‘Plastic Paddy’ by people too lazy to figure him out.

My mother brought us up with many a little saying or adage (along with the pressure to speak ‘properly’), including the thought that people judge us by the way we speak. As an English teacher in East London, I often shared this message with my students. But here’s the contradiction…it can work both ways, can’t it?

Luckily, accent is more happily celebrated these days, and even the BBC has broken its taboo on regional voices and cadences coming across the airwaves. Let’s listen to what people have to say; just as much as hearing the accents they use to say it.

© Eithne Cullen, 2023

Connect with Eithne on Twitter: @eithne_cullen


I’ve decided to finish with a piece I wrote on the back of the podcast when all those thoughts about my class identity were fresh in my mind. I recognise I’ve done things that separate me from my roots, but I wholly embrace my working-class background. It’s made me who I am, which is to say, it’s made me the writer I am. The things that interest me most as a writer can be traced back to my formative years, and the people and places I knew then. I think here, in the city, I’m always going to feel a little like an outsider – even if I do drink matcha lattes and use the tube without looking at a map now! And I’m OK with that, because it’s how I’ve come to find my voice.

Where Do You Come From?

“Where do you come from?” he asks, looking me up and down. His mouth is upturned, but I can’t work out whether he’s sniggering or smiling. We’re so often the punchline; I’m one step ahead.

“The north. But we moved a lot. I’ve been here for over a decade, though.”

“Yeah, yeah…I can hear it now,” he says. “What’s it like up there? I’ve never been.”

Of course you haven’t been; why would you? They’d spot you a mile off, anyway. And you wouldn’t like it, them knowing you – seeing you – in spite of your strangeness there. Isn’t that why you’re here, in this big, sprawling city? Didn’t you seek refuge in these labyrinthine streets, too?

I wonder what he makes of me, what picture he’s created from the piecemeal scraps of information I’ve given him: writer, Capricorn, graduate, only child, says “tea” not “dinner.” He offers to buy me another drink and I hesitate before answering yes. It’s stuffy and noisy in here (a ‘proper pub’ – he probably thinks I’m right at home), and I can already feel that last glass of cheap wine. My cheeks are flushed and my hands are clammy, and the more he’s probing me about it all, the more I want to leave. Dates are like job interviews, except it’s your personality they’re rating and you’ve got to pay for the privilege. Unless you put out on a first date, but they say you shouldn’t do that.

I’m not sure how much of myself I should reveal so early on. I don’t know what’s palatable, because I’ve been told – by a few fancy city folk, and the papers, and those low-budget documentaries about teen mums – that my ilk are not, in fact, palatable. My dad used to say we’re “nowt but cannon fodder” primed for a life of pittance. No wonder I wanted to leave. But it’s left me in some strange hinterland, belonging neither here nor there. And I’m acutely aware of it, sitting in this ‘authentic’ English boozer (where the cheapest wine costs an hour’s worth of work) next to a stranger who, it appears, has no notion of what it means to be working class.

What do I say about it? Should I offset the rural idyll with truths about my dad and the time he spent inside? Can I be both proud and a product of the shame that’s been put upon me? And, should this date go well – should we make a go of it – could I gather up my disparate parts and finally become whole? Sometimes, I feel like a rudimentary being, half-formed in brooks and lowlands; brought too soon to the city, in the wake of my own destruction. The last ten years have felt like a fever dream, but I don’t tell him that, obviously.

He keeps talking. About the news and the weather, about his job in the city that he got through a friend of a friend (“a stopgap – my real passion is wildlife photography, but I also take nudes”), about his weekly shopping habits and preferred playlists. I look into his face and see myself reflected in his eyes, and I wonder which version of me he sees.

© Amber Hall, 2023

You can connect with me on Twitter: @amber_marie_123 and Instagram: @amber.marie.123


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Identity is a funny thing. It’s deeply personal and multifaceted (and often full of contradictions!).