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Mental Health

What is the Box and How Do We Escape It?

There are many ways to define this box, I’m sure you’ve heard of a few of them. Across the world, people love to organize their reality by placing people into categories; i.e boxes. The only problem with this is that these boxes are somewhat exclusive. 

Growing up I was constantly asked what I was interested in. When I answered with “creative writing,” adults beamed down at me, “Oh, so you’re creative. That’s nice.” Sometimes you don’t mind the box you are placed in. I felt as though this box was fitting as I struggled in math and science. 


As I got older I developed interests across many boxes. In highschool I had a very close friend group who designated me the “athletic friend” while others became “the smart one,” or “the musically talented one.” This never bothered me because my friends were supportive of all my interests, even if they didn’t fit my box. I really believe that the majority of highschool drama is related to this concept, as it is strongly tied to identity. I was lucky in that I went to a highschool that had equally strong programs across all areas of interests. The schedule was set up so that it allowed me to take art classes, a philosophy class, photography class, varsity sports, intramural dance, and history electives. By senior year I was taking A.P two-dimensional design and A.P biology while also playing for two varsity teams. My different interests were celebrated in this environment, but that is not the case for every school. 

Adult Back View Backpack Beautiful
Tim Gouw / Pexels

In the fall, I applied for college like everyone else in my class. I had expected to find schools who would similarly celebrate my “well-roundedness,” but instead each school put me in a box that shut me off from the rest of my interests. I originally had 12 schools on my list, each of which branded me as either a writer, an artist, or an athlete. Even my highschool branded me an artistic person, and suggested similarly boxed colleges. My own parents did not understand why I wanted to pursue biology because according to them I was, and always will be, a creative writer. Because of this, applying to college was an incredibly stressful time for me. I felt as if choosing a college meant choosing a box to stick myself in.

No one is just one box. Our education system wants us to believe that pursuing a creative path is not as important as going into science, nursing, or tech. The reality is that having a wide range of interests and talents sets you up for better success. There are many colleges and careers that celebrate well-roundedness. One way to fight the stigma of the box is to try to stop putting people into them. Include art majors in your science clubs, or STEM majors in your nutrition ones. Attempt to break down the barriers of this social construct that isn’t doing anyone any good. Lastly, you know your own identity! Don’t let someone reduce you to one little box.


Alex Brooke

Emerson '23

I am a creative writing major from VT! I'm also a certified scuba diver and overall ocean nerd, so it's an interesting blend of writing and marine biology.
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