There comes a point in every person’s college career where everything becomes an unknown. You have no idea what’s happening in class, your friend group is shifting, and you can’t even seem to make a doctor’s appointment by yourself. When everything in your life if unknown, it’s really easy to feel lost, lose touch with you are, or even struggle to figure out who you are or who you want to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about identity. As an avid 80’s and 90’s movie lover, you would think having an identity crisis would be something huge: a dramatic event happens in your life, like not getting asked to prom by the one person you are totally in love with, and all of a sudden, you have no idea who you are. But, unfortunately, life isn’t Pretty in Pink, and an identity crisis isn’t that well planned. Sometimes, it’s just slowly wondering about what defines you and who you truly are.
For some people, it has been the same for their entire lives: they know what they want, when they want it, how they are going to get it, and who they want to be. For others, it’s a process of trial and error. And for some, they’ve had an idea their whole life, and after entering college, their entire world shifted, leaving them lost in the dark in a forest of change and uncertainty.
After a falling out with a very close friend about 3 years ago, I still have some of her final words to me ringing around my head: “well, I guess people change.”
And even though she meant it as an insult, you know what? She’s right. People do change. We aren’t supposed to stay the same. The hopeful and possibly naïve part of me thinks that there is always the chance to become better, be braver, and act kinder. But that one sentence got me thinking: if people change and change frequently, how are we supposed to know who we are? Does the definition of our own self change as our character develops?
I’ve always had personal vindictiveness against labels. I was the real-life Gabriella from High School Musical (minus the incredibly handsome Zac Efron falling in love with me), always labeled the “freaky math girl” (or something of that sort), and wishing to be “just a girl.” I was so tired of being known as the “smart” one or the one who “only studies and doesn’t have fun.” Even in the way I dressed, I never wanted to be just one thing. Why, if I liked wearing dark clothes and a choker, couldn’t I wear a dress and a bow the next day? Who said my boho skirt couldn’t be followed up by Doc Martins?
Even now, as I continue my senior year of college, I am wrestling with this idea as my interests and desires change with age. In high school, I was a firm, adamant skeptic of sororities. I believe the words “I will never buy my friends” came out of my mouth multiple times. The thought of hundreds of chanting girls in dresses with glitter eye paint sounded like a personal hell crafted just for me.
Guess who decided to rush in college? And guess who joined a sorority? And guess who likes it?
Life has a funny way of working itself out.
As I broke through my circle of comfort and decided to go Greek, I still to this day wonder: does trying something I professed to hate make me more open-minded and brave, or does it just make me a phony? Would I be the laughing stock of Holden Caulfield?
I think we often forget that opinions are meant to change. We believe our opinions are set in stone, but that is a lie. That’s why they are called opinions and not facts. We are allowed to grow out of the things we once believed in or to evaluate those beliefs and see why we were so quick to originally judge. That’s the thing: if we proclaim to hate something before we have given it a chance, it only makes us smaller-minded. It doesn’t promote new experiences, self-reflection or growth. It keeps you in your box. And I’m not saying to go out and try every kind of drug you can find at a frat party (please don’t, I care about you ladies!) or try a sport you know you’ll absolutely hate. What I am saying is that you have the freedom to start over at any point. You can redefine who you are. And you are not made to be just one thing and be squished into one box of “sorority girl” or “smart girl” or “girl with the pink hair.” You are capable of being all of those things or none of them at all. But you get to decide.
It has taken me some time to realize this, but the definition of who we are is complex. It is not how much you accomplish, your past, who you hang out with, your GPA, the work you do, or the money you have. Those things help shape a picture of you, but they aren’t you and don’t define you. You are a developing person who evolves and learns from their mistakes. Especially if you have a past you aren’t proud of, it can be hard to define yourself by anything but that. But no matter the diagnosis, no matter the situation, you are more than that.
You are the things you love, the people who love you, and the places you have been. You are what fills your heart and makes you excited to see the sun in the morning. And throughout life, those things are going to change, and so are you. It may take a little bit of time to figure out the new person you are becoming in different seasons of life. It may feel like you’re standing in sinking sand. That’s okay. I promise you, the wait is worth it. The change is worth it. Believe in who you are becoming and keep going until you find the absolute best version of you. Be proud of how hard you are working to become that person and be kind to yourself along the way. The journey is hard, but when you become the person you always wanted to be, you’ll be so happy you changed. And when you find your best you, love her and never let her go.