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I live in New Zealand, I was born in Indonesia with a disability, I went to public schools where I had great teachers, I grew up in a stable family that (I assume) has always loved me, I have an all right number of passable friends, I go to the University of Auckland. Some of these things are important.

None of these things made me.

That statement is not entirely true. I acknowledge that my parents’ decision to move to New Zealand was probably influential. I can’t fathom what would have changed had I not moved here — Would I have been more religious? Would I have been more successful? Did this decision make me who I am today? I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it had at least some impact, and in this way I accept that my parents made me.

Another factor which may have made me who I am is my disability. For better or worse, this has had a larger impact on my life. It has made me a cautious, anxious person and has been the major source of my otherness. It is perhaps this otherness that has led me to seek virtual spaces where physical exertion is unnecessary for enjoyment.

The bulk of my personality was formed on the internet; my thoughts and values molded by my time in game, music, film, blogs and forums. I hadn’t really used the internet for much other than playing flash games and reading scanlated manga until I was around 10. It was around that time that my love of books was replaced by the easily accessible, digestible entertainment that can be found online. Internet native — this is what educators call students who grow up in the digital age. In reality, I was more a digital immigrant, moving into this new world as it developed while I aged into young adulthood. The music I listen to and the books I’ve read have been defined by the likes of Reddit, 4chan and the various music blogs that shill their sound of the future. (As an aside, websites like Reddit and 4chan are banned in Indonesia, and I am curious whether a censored internet would have hamstrung its influence over me.) My aimless virtual wandering has also impacted my morality, as my values are based on the consensus of the spaces I reside in online. It is these consensuses, these aggregations of ideas that have made me who I am, rather than any person I could individually name.

My relationship with the internet is not that simple even though it is constantly making me. I’ve never had a Twitter account, yet I check Twitter every day to witness fanwars and political fights. I go on Instagram to keep up with my favourite musicians, but would never consider creating one myself. The internet is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning and the last before I go to bed. It has probably become the biggest influencer in how I think, how I feel, how I treat the people around me. Despite this, I don’t have much of an online footprint. I refuse to participate in most online discussions because too many of them devolve into trolling, flaming, and general negativity. My Facebook was created only after years of pressure; it’s barely used.

There is an inherent irony in the fact that I am simultaneously immersed in and isolated by the internet. Perhaps I am genetically predisposed to being reserved, quiet, passive in reality and in virtual spaces, and perhaps this fate has made me me more than the internet has. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to post stuff online.

I don’t remember having a distinct personality before high school, before I spent most of my time facing the black mirror of a screen. I may be overstating the influences of my favourite virtual spaces, but in my mind there is a dearth of defining childhood experiences. Though there have been good moments, I find it telling that I measure time passing through milestones in the virtual space; from decade-long video game release schedules to re-watching favourite underground musicians blow up on social media. Though the internet may be a tool to create content and connect with people around the world, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it is also the opposite. It is a mechanism through which people like me can be influenced and their identities formed and solidified.

About the author
Rafi Baboe is in his second year of a Law and Commerce degree at the University of Auckland. He enjoys a good brood and is an avid fan of musicians with less than 100 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Evolution of R&B

Just as your environment shapes your tastes and preferences, I contend that the opposite holds true, especially as it pertains to music. While my early musical choices were mere reflections of the people around me, the impression they had was nonetheless long-lasting. This playlist takes you through the musical influences that shaped the majority of my formative years.

About the author
An undergraduate student specialising in data science, Radi is in pursuit of a life arming global institutions with emerging technologies. He regards listening to RnB & Soul demigods like Daniel Caesar and Anderson .Paak as the most meditative of pastimes.
Descendant

And detaches self from shadow
across puddles, and forgets how to hold
his mother’s hand and

the sliver of her voice slips the fist
of his mind / but believe me    there were years
he could hear her in the songs

of the tūī of the backyard— I say
there are things you will
never know again 

not the front room held in light (the late warmth),
nor birds running the roof like early hail, like the plums
pounding the deck after gale, split and bruised

—not the tree, bowed and broken,
dead last spring. Branches slain in storm,
felled across the fruitless soil

like the severed arms of a statue, stretched
heavenward in blank unpraise,
her stranded embrace.

How do you lose a language? Or let slip
entire kingdoms / Slowly,
then all at once

the birds stop alighting. And the ear
grows dull. And the tongue grows
heavy. And  I didn’t mean to   he says

hang up halfway  he says  thumb slipped
               I dropped
                                           call

Some mornings I find
him silent on the balcony with
the herbs and all his hands

no birds in the city  I say
He says nothing, listening
to the day, young and cold

as the day the cat killed the tūī
in the depths of July
Carried to his feet, an oblation—

the white collar stained, the wings mid-beat
And I watched him pale

and turn away / and walk
voiceless into the house /

where neither sings
again / and carry with you

that open, untouched hand /
that death

About the author
Janna Tay studies law, politics, and philosophy at the University of Auckland. Her work has appeared in Starling, Polyphony H.S., and -Ology Journal, and she won second prize in Landfall's 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers' Essay Competition. Find her on Twitter.
Family Tale

I am only just beginning to love my history. I’d long known about it — stories my mother would tell me of jungles and old houses, exotic animals and unheard of fruit, ghosts and grandmothers and rooftops on summer nights. These stories I enjoyed, having heard them more times than I can count. And yet, these stories I dismissed; subconsciously deciding that they didn’t really apply to me. It’s a strange phenomenon, looking back. Other people’s family trees intrigued me. But even when I managed to pick up concrete facts about my extended family — generally slipped edgeways into my parents’ conversations — I found myself forgetting them. It was a half-hearted effort, like how it had become a half-hearted effort to get into cultural dress for a festival, or expand my knowledge of Bengali.

The best explanation for this childhood ambivalence wasn’t fully boredom or apathy. In retrospect, I think I was  somehow afraid. Afraid that acknowledging my heritage would differentiate me; though really I experienced as much anyway. To grow up away from the land of your ancestors is to know difference. You learn this in subtle ways: The way “culture” and “ethnicity” are things to navigate. The way I dread saying my name in loud places, knowing I will need to repeat it. The way it proclaims its own foreignness, always paces ahead before the rest of me can catch up.

In an age of “diversity”, racial minorities are told that they will be respected, even celebrated. But what is the use if they cannot celebrate themselves? In Western spaces, white people have the privilege of anonymity; they also have the monopoly on uniqueness. They might declare themselves part Romanian, a quarter Italian, a fifteenth Nigerian, a bit Greek. They may be many things; people of colour are unambiguously one thing, with a personality, a home, a history already assigned. Some kids take to scrubbing themselves clean of being the “Other”. They might establish themselves as the Loveable Ethnic in an all-white friend group. They might hide their parents from these friends, knowing that broken English is brave but it is not glamorous.

With hiding the present comes hiding the past. For many people, the shame seeps back into their heritage; into the places they are “really” from. Some of these people leap back and forth between the worlds of there and here. Others don’t occupy such clear boundaries, forever in that limbo between what they know of here and what they think they know of that other place. After all, hiding your roots implies you’re aware of them. Many of my immigrant friends tell me there are nebulous stretches of their history that they have never dared dredge up, scared of invoking relatives’ bitter memories. The narrative is just too broad to conceive of: These aren’t your homegrown feuds but ones involving oceans and dynasties, children and jealousies, money and marriage and age-old traditions no one is willing to budge from.

These things form all of us, regardless of culture. Our parents bring them into our lives before we are even alive, and we might grow up facing the other way.

A few weeks ago, my mother met her cousin after twenty four years. This cousin and her husband had visited my family in the United States, over two decades ago when my sister was young and I was not yet in existence. After our move to New Zealand the visits had ceased; the contact soon lost. I grew up with no real knowledge of the people who were related to me outside of my immediate family. That is, until my aunt and her husband emailed my father a mere four days before they turned up on our doorstep that they will be in New Zealand, and can they come by?

After their visit, I inducted my mother into the miraculous world of social media. Together we navigated the landscape of blurry photos and changed names, my mother trying to find the profiles of cousins and uncles and grand aunts. Only decades ago this kind of family-finding would be impossible. Connections lost would stay lost without FaceTime or WhatsApp or Skype to keep the threads of communication alive, no matter where you were in the world.

My aunt posted photos of us on her Facebook page, under which another of my mother’s cousins commented that I resemble her aunt: my grandmother. I thought about that for days — how someone I had never met had looked at me and seen history, one that for her was recent enough to be the present.

Our history is what makes us. Not simply in terms of the way we are created by our grandparents’ genetics passed down to our parents and then to us, but in terms of how the past comes tumbling into our lives every so often; in the form of old albums, yellowing letters and sometimes, if we are lucky, the people themselves.

About the author
Anuja Mitra is a Law and Arts student at the University of Auckland. Her work was featured in the National Library exhibition “The Next Word: Contemporary New Zealand Poetry” and can also be found in Signals, Starling, and Sweet Mammalian.