In 1989, due to a decrease in viewers, the British television show Doctor Who was suspended. For those who are unfamiliar with the popular BBC production, the basic idea of the show is that “the Doctor” is a humanoid alien who has a spaceship that can travel through time and space and has a particular liking for earth and its people. He also has the ability to avoid death by “regenerating” into a new body if/when he sustains a deadly injury.
In an attempt to reboot the series, a movie was produced in 1996 featuring a new Doctor that would be the show’s eighth reincarnation. It was a British-American-Canadian production and is notorious for its low quality. It is considered by fans to be a bit of a blemish on the show’s reputation. At the very beginning we see the last doctor of the tv series regenerate into the eighth doctor. It is a very melodramatic and drawn out scene. Upon awakening into the world, the new doctor stumbles around an abandoned hospital in a sheet because… he has amnesia? Finally he dramatically falls to his knees crying out: “WHO AM I?”
I’m sure the directors were trying to depict an emotional moment to pull the old audience into this new imagining of the story, but sadly the only emotion that the scene evokes is laughter. This very long story was all to say that recently I have been thinking of this moment in the movie and been surprised at how much I feel like begging the universe to answer this same query: Who am I?
I am currently going through a rather strange time of transitions. My social life has gotten very turned around and I find myself feeling isolated and lonely. I’ve been falling behind in my class work and have barely stayed afloat with my various responsibilities around campus. It’s easy to feel like my life is falling apart, which has forced me to take a step back and seriously think about what I’m doing. This has also led me to think about how I interact with people and notice changes in my personality.
In elementary school we would do various activities that had us compliment our fellow classmates, usually by writing a note for each person in the class. You would end with a nice pile of notes that told you how other people perceived you. I feel like they were all the same (all the ones that I remember at least): “You’re so nice to everyone!” “You always smile!” “You’re so creative!”. When eighth grade came to an end, I was awarded the charity award that might as well have been the “nice person” award.
In high school we had similar exercises of compliments and from what I remember there wasn’t much change in content over the years. At graduation I received the Theta Alpha award. Again this award seemed to dub me as someone who is nice and has a positive attitude. I was never what you would call “popular” or a “social butterfly”, but I do remember being cheerful a lot of the time and doing my best to be positive. I wore the title of “nice person” with pride and enjoyed it. I think I continued to hold that persona through the first year of college (although we have no handy compliment exercises that I can point to as proof). I remember thinking how easy and fun orientation was because I had all these chances to meet new people and have a whole new audience for my smiles and cheerful greetings.
This is all sounding rather bitter and the truth is that I am feeling a little bitter. But I think most of the bitterness comes from the fact that I don’t feel like that anymore. In comparison to who I was in eighth grade, I’m a total grump, a social recluse. I’ve realized that I avoid talking to people when I can and rarely make an effort to do more than tighten my lips and raise my eyebrows as I pass someone in the dining hall. This realization was a bit of a hard hit. I don’t want to be a grump. I want to get back to that place where I felt confident in talking to people and it wasn’t emotionally draining to genuinely smile and say hello.
My hope is that this transitional phase will prove to be just that and as soon as I find a new kind of stability in my social and academic life I can rediscover that version of Tykah that won the charity award in eighth grade. Not that I want to go back to eighth grade! I am perfectly happy to remain in my 21st year of life, but it would be nice to get back some of that positivity and emotional energy that allowed me to make connections with the people around me.
The inadvertent humor of the “who am I” scene also reminds me to laugh at myself. It may feel like my life is falling apart, but that feeling will pass and I can find the things that really make me happy. The moments that I can look to as the things that define me.
Remembering and thinking about this scene gives me a hope that this transition will end because despite the failure of the Doctor Who movie, the BBC rebooted the television show in 2005 and it has been on TV ever since. Turns out that this terrible movie was just a transition. Something to keep the story and show in the minds of fans and to motivate an actually good reboot nine years later. One of my favorite doctors is the 11th reincarnation of the alien and his final speech before regeneration has a little bit of wisdom that gives me some comfort after falling to my knees and asking “Who am I?”
“We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good. You’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”