Identity is something we don't think about too often, yet it defines so much of what we can and can't do in our civilised society, right down to who we are. Our personal identity may include qualities, feelings or aspirations we have for or about ourselves; how we choose to live our lives, have others view us, and so on.

Then we get to legal identity, which for all intents and purposes may as well be someone entirely different. Out there, in computers databases and legal papers stashed in filing cabinets is our alter ego, our alternative self. Our legal identity acts on our behalf. They're like an avatar, of sorts.

Complications arise when our legal identities can't be readily mapped onto our real identities, or to our "selves". In the proverbial life hashing algorithm, we input our real selves and are rendered as a hash which may not match our legal identity.

It can be quite the unnerving experience, like you've lost control of your other "self" who's supposed to be acting for you. It's like locking yourself out of a VPS, or your car. You know that you're "you", but somehow someone, somewhere else, isn't convinced. You're not authorised to act as your legal self.

Part of us must surely appreciate the lengths it can take to prove legal identity at times. If it were easy, our identities could be stolen at the drop of a hat. Some are, easily. Now that's a scary prospect.

Still, fretting that you can't find a slip of paper that (combined with other pieces of paper) proves you're Ruben Schade (or another name, mind) is no fun. To replace that piece of paper, you'd need to prove your identity in a dozen other ways, all of which need proof of identity themselves.

It's bootstrapping at best, Catch–22 at worst.

Today's adventures have reminded me a legal identity is akin to an avatar stashed in a cryogenic freezer. Every now and then, we need to go back and check it has enough power, that not too much ice has formed, that our vitals are stable. Fail to care for your legal identity, and it could start to whither away. One card may expire, then a document may go astray. Next thing you know, you're stuck with an ATM card and student ID to prove who you are!

Reconstruction is complicated, time consuming and expensive. Don't take this for granted.