Fariha Tayyab
Writer. Photographer


Interview on Identity

Fariha Tayyab talks about identity - The Magic Sessions


I'm a Columbus transplant by way of my home, Houston, Texas! When my college homie moved to a small town in Ohio a decade ago, I said I would never move here! But like all the cities I have been fortunate to live in and visit, I grew quite fond of Columbus right away (especially as it is very much like Austin)! Find me a city with local food, fair trade coffee to daydream, and diversity (of all kinds) for community work -  and I am set! 

In the last few years, I've been convinced to intentionally overlap my artistic mediums, writing and photography, to narrate stories of those that have been dismissed by society. I create with the values of impact and influence in mind; thus a lot of my work, both as an artist and an educator, is through the lens of social justice.

 What does the word "identity" mean to you? 

I think about how identity, connotatively, varies greatly in different linguistic cultures from how we definite it. The dictionary defines identity, as individuality. When meeting someone new, after asking where they are from, we often resort to one of the automatic follow ups ‘so, what do you do?’ The response determines how 'successful’ you have been, how you stand out, and then in return, how that person will judge you and see if they care to know you better. 

I respond to this question based on the headspace I am in. Why not use the alternative definition of identity which is oneness, or wholeness. Some days I want to start again and wonder what if we asked questions that do not deal with labels and just ask questions that create authentic connection around identity.  

How do we feel in today’s world?  Are you loving those around you and requesting that love in return? What do you value that is intangible? Maybe on the lighter side, what do you do when you’re not stressed? What kind of dreams do you have at night? What do you find gratitude in?

How do you define yourself—your identity—personally?

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I spoke about this at Making Midwest this summer, relating back to the idea of identifying ourselves, and creating a hierarchy which can inhibit or assist our self-worth. 

In spirit of that mindset, I identify as a human. My values include peace, exploration, justice, integrity, compassion, love and many more! 

When has defining your identity been a struggle? 

For someone like me, my identity is quite often politicized. Whether or not I choose that for myself, matters less when others choose your identity on your behalf. I do not give much time or energy in revoking what I may be labeled with, but putting my heart and passion where it matters.

There are some days that it is not easy to get up, in a country that you call your home, but in return will not allow you, or even your children, to ever feel that is in indeed home. I do not, however, enable that empty rhetoric or systemic imposition, to define my existence, or the existence of those around me. 

My purpose in the world is to continue building a more just, equitable society, for the communities and causes that I am privileged to serve. And really that is what matters.

When has defining your identity been easy? 

Since I am constantly pushing myself to learn and ripen, I am not really sure if I can pinpoint certain instances, maybe just spaces that are both inclusive and creative. I live by my mantra of ‘reality is perception,’ so really identity it is only as easy and difficult as you make it. 

Do you think of identity as dynamic or stable? Why?

I think of identity as dynamic. We should be like rivers, with tributaries, always flowing and moving, until we are gone from this world. 

Describe a meaningful, positive connection that has come from Magic Sessions.

In the last magic session, ‘Identity,’ I realized that my group and I were so interconnected in our struggles, in both expression and discipline. During this process of both silent reflection and group dialogues, I had a lot of head nodding, "yessss, me too" moments. I was also recommended to take Gretchen Rubin’s tendency quiz since a group member mentioned, “your tendency is probably an obliger." They were spot on! Why was I not able to identify this in myself earlier? I still have the Identity circle diagram on my bulletin board for reflecting.  Yay! for deep dialogues and cultivating new habits.