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December 11, 2011 / windlessly

Finding Your Identity in Life

I am here. The peak of my senior year, the youngest I will ever be for the rest of my life. So many possibilities and dreams before me, so many decisions and opportunities awaiting my first footsteps. I have 17 years of life, experience, and knowledge behind me, yet I wonder- how can one not be petrified to continue stepping into the vast unknown? I’m almost done travelling through this gigantic, dark underground tunnel we like to call high school. College is approaching, and I can almost feel the light on the other side. (Well, I don’t actually give my high school enough credit- it may be a dark underground tunnel, but it’s filled with flashing neon signs and all kinds of cool illuminated objects, floating memories, loud, pumping techno music, and the laughter of close friends).

It’s been quite the journey- late nights laboring over homework, agonizing over questions in numerous textbooks, staring at a computer screen with sleep-deprived eyes for half the night to finish essays, trying to stay awake during class… and what has it all been for? To get into college. But now that that’s said and done, what’s to become of the rest of my life? I’m no longer swimming through a multitude of deadlines, projects, scholarships, homework, and obligations, so what becomes of my time?

I’m using it to find myself. For the past twelve years, school and grades have been such a large part of my identity, and for good reason, too- when you spend so much of your time and effort into one thing, it starts to  naturally become a part of you. We all have definitions of ourselves, definitions of our existences, and deep down, school has always been a part of it. I’m only now starting to realize the scope of my life that comes after school ends, my whole life ahead of me. School has done a great job in preparing me with an education, but the true test comes afterwards. It’s during these next few decades that I’ll really find my purpose and identity.

Let me explain further. I’ve always been a relatively competitive person, something that came about from being a top student in school and being around others who similarly worked hard to be the best. It was a contradicting side to me, because I don’t like to be competitive and I hate the pressure that comes along with it. But I would naturally compare myself to others, to try to gauge my own merit, to have a piece of identity to tie myself to. Everyone does it, I think, but people have varying degrees of how they show it or deal with it internally. At any rate, I do it to feel secure in myself and my identity. I’ll be the first to admit that I used it to rationalize failure as well… “Oh, I did worse on that test, but at least I’m still better at sports.” We all play the game where we internally compare talents and traits to others, something that is extremely hard to refrain from when you have friends of similar talent and accomplishment. There’s a fine line between admiration and jealousy, I’ve found, and it’s hard to control which side of it you feel most, even if you can control which side of it you show. You congratulate your friend and shower them with compliments, but secretly you feel a bit sick to the stomach because they achieved something great and you didn’t.

It’s not the most positive topic to talk about, but it’s something I feel the need to address because we all experience it. In the end, I think it’s character that determines how you control your competitive nature. You might be bitter at first that your friend got the lead role in the play, but bitterness eventually gives way to joy for your friend- pure, untarnished joy for what they’ve done and accomplished. And there is hope because that too, is an inherent characteristic to humans in my opinion. And so comes the ultimate question- how do you control your jealousy in those types of situations? How can you be happy with yourself without worrying about others? Competition certainly isn’t bad, and it’s definitely brought out the best of me these past few years, in all aspects of my life, but there comes a time when I just want to shed all of that and truly be happy with my own identity.

I think that time is now. I’ve come to accept that there will always be people out there who are better than me, whether it’s at soccer (okay I realized that a long time ago), sports in general, music, writing, studying, or any combination of the above. There are unbelievable people out there, and it’s hard to have faith in your own worth and talents. So how do you differ from 99% of the other people who aren’t “the best.” Passion and attitude. Those two things alone, I believe, greatly define people from high school and on through life. Back to the tunnel scenario- academics and the gain of knowledge are represented by the tunnel itself and the tracks I was moving along on. But all the other things, the embellishments and the rainbow streaks and the lights- they represent the clubs I’ve joined, the sports I’ve played, and the music groups I was a part of- the whole rest of the high school experience that many people overlook. Those are the passions I’ve developed. Sure, I wasn’t first chair in band all the time, but I loved playing music and I love playing duets with my brother or other people on various instruments. I might not get recruited for Division I soccer, but it’s still my favorite sports and brings me immense satisfaction. So really, in the end, it doesn’t matter how you compare to others in the world in terms of pure accomplishment or talent. Not many of us will reach a point where they can truly say they are the best at something (unless your name happens to be Usain Bolt, for example), so in the end it’s how you view life that’s important (quite the paradox, huh, you live life to discover how best to view life).

And that makes ALL the difference. For a lot of kids who were at the top of their class in high school, college comes as a shock because it’s a whole new ball game. Because they built their whole identity on being the “best,” their self-image crumbles when they meet all these amazing people just like them, if not better. For me, contrary to feeling self-conscious about that, I feel pumped and extremely lucky. I’m excited to meet all these incredible people in college, and hopefully I’ll learn a lot from them and be inspired by their accomplishments. I’ve decided that when I finally get there, however, I won’t feel pressured to compete with them. I’ll simply forge my own identity by being honest and true to myself. And with that mindset, I feel pretty invincible. School’s ending, but at the end must come a beginning- the beginning to to the rest of my life. The beginning to explore the passions I’ve discovered during high school. The beginning to do the things I want to pursue for my sake and no one else’s. One of those things for me, for example, is travelling and seeing the world, like the guy in this video. (A friend of mine showed me this video the other day, and it totally made my day- I was grinning throughout the entire video)

So even if you’re like me and haven’t really found your identity, just keep on celebrating life and you’ll get there. I hate the idea of “finding a niche,” but I think it’s a reality of the world. We can’t do everything, or strive to be the best in everything, so choose the things that matter the most to you. In fact, I think it’s harder to choose what NOT to do in your life. That’s why I love writing in this blog- at least for now, I’m free to write about anything and everything that crosses my mind. Sure, all the blog experts insist that successful blogs only focus on one issue or one particular niche, but I haven’t yet decided if I can do that to myself. The same goes for college- I haven’t decided which path I want to take, but I trust that the choice will come to me eventually. When it comes, though, I’ll embrace it as finding my own identity.

For me, especially, this whole thing goes along a lot with my faith, and giving up my life for God. Bible study, going to Saranac Village, and quiet reflection have lead me to the conclusion that faith in Jesus Christ is the best solution. He will lead me if I put my trust in Him, and glorifying and getting closer to Jesus becomes my purpose in life. Proverbs 3:5-6 continues to reassure me. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” And so I’m here, standing at the end of a tunnel, waiting for the light to come so I can see which path to take and how to trust my own identity.

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