One mistake adults make when they meet wide eyed, impressionable children is asking this simple question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Kids think about it really hard, because they believe in the importance of this frequently asked ‘grown up’ question. So we grow up asking ourselves the same. What do I want to be? Slowly, our lives shape around this question. Children grow concerned about not being good at what they do. Am I pretty enough, am I getting good enough grades, will I ever be great at what I want to do? We grow so heavily concerned with all the “whats” we want to be that sometimes we fail to recognize that there is another serious question we have we’ve stopped asking ourselves: now that I have taken steps to be what I want to be, am I still who I want to be?
As we are just about to starting a new semester, (the first for some of us) take a moment to really think this question through. Over the course of high school, did you try to be something that you are not really sure you are happy being? Have you done or said or been things that have made you less you? Note that there is no issue as to whether you have done right or wrong. Those things are debatable. The question is whether you have done justice to yourself, not some sociably accepted or expected version of yourself. If you are a fresher, appreciate that you are in the position to be anyone you want to be in this new phase of your life. Take advantage of it, but be mindful of who, exactly, it is that you want to become.
If something resonates or leaves lingering questions, maybe this is a moment in time in which change is an option. It does not have to be. Perhaps a priority needs to shift or a way of thought that you have adopted bothers you and you want to alter it. Ideally, you could just allow yourself the optimism and faith to believe you can change parts of yourself at any time you choose. Consider that you are who you decide you want to be from right now. You do not need to resign yourself to being a product of other people, or past experiences. even if there are things you have done that you regret.
When I was in high school I made a series of misjudgments. Eventually, they got to my dad who took it as an indication that I needed some guidance. He sat me down and put a glass of milk in front of me. He told me that my life was the glass and the milk was my past. He placed a jug of water next to the glass and gestured to the water in the jug. He told me that could be my future. My father picked up the jug and began to pour water into the glass of milk. The glass overflowed. and The milk and water spilled over and onto the table, but he kept pouring. At first I was distracted and confused by the mess he was making, but eventually, the jug was empty, and he set it down. The glass had become clear. It was pure water left behind. He looked me dead in the eye and told me that everything that I decided to be from that day on would determine who I was and eventually, I could be whoever I wanted to be. The rest, he said, would just be a muddy memory. Make conscious choices, he told me. Stop being so caught up that you forget who you are.
I think about that glass sometimes when I feel like life has become a little grey.
When I was a little older, and thought I understood better, my uncle taught me a more philosophical way of looking at it; we are called human beings, he reminded me, not human doings. And for good reason. We exist as we are, not as we do. Everything that you do reflects who you are, and realign yourself if you need to. Digression is a part of life, and so is mischief. What fun would life be without either? But fun will always come and go. When it comes down to it, look at yourself in a mirror, and make sure you love that person. Make sure that person makes you happy. Be the being you are proud of.