It's Okay if You Don't Know Who You Are, as Long as You're Not Who You Were

Life is hard. It just is! There's no way around it, and sometimes it's really hard to take a step back and try to figure out your place in this mess - which can leave you feeling empty, confused, and unhappy but with no clue how to go about making positive changes. There are a few things I've learned over the years that really help put things in perspective, including this big one: NO ONE really knows "who they are." The secret to self-identity is making purposeful, frequent decisions towards being the best person you can be, and has nothing to do with what's going on precisely in this moment. Although it's not usually good to look back or be too retrospective, it can be quite helpful in realizing your worth and your progress if you think about the person you used to be.

Quick exercise: think back five or so years ago - what type of person were you then? If you could, would you go back and become that person again? If the answer is no, great! The best part about life is we screw up and make mistakes, but we also can fix them. Even if it felt accidental, or you never took the time in the last five years to say "I want to change x, y, and z, and I'm going to do it before I'm 22," the fact is, you've grown. Life experiences, relationships, acheivements - all of these things push us along the path of life and change the person that we are. Back to my question - if the answer was yes, try to think about it again. Think about the things you've done that five-years-ago-you hadn't - maybe you were accepted into college, maybe you got into a great or out of a bad relationship, maybe you made a really scary decision that changed your life. Would your past self have been brave enough or strong enough to do those things? Probably not, because you hadn't had your experiences yet. 

One of the most influential things in my own life that led me to this realization and a significant shift in my outlook on life ever since happened when I was 18. I had followed my high school boyfriend to a state school that was academically fine but was also far below the type of school that I could have gotten into, and I spent the entire first semester more miserable than ever. Now college is a super difficult adjustment, don't get me wrong - tons of people feel this way. But as time went on I began to take stock of why I was so unhappy - were the classes too hard? Not really. Did I miss home? Of course. But did I want to drop out? Not at all. Turns out, it was a combination of an enviroment I didn't love, surrounded by an unhealthy relationship and stale, surface level friendships, combined with a huge population of my high school class at the same school, making it difficult to reinvent myself as college usually permits.

So once I decided what was wrong, I had to decide how I was going to fix it. I ultimately came to the conclusion that I couldn't do it in my current environment and that I had to make a change. Now here's where the rational advice giving part of this article takes a left turn. Basically, I applied for Hawaii Pacific University because who doesn't want to go to school at the beach? Luckily I had my parents to bring me back down to earth by helping me realize that if I really wanted it, I'd have to supplement the costs with scholarships, which gave me the opportunity to finally exercise all of the potential I discarded when applying for colleges during my senior year of high school. So three months of practicing and one music scholarship later, I was off. That's how I ended up cutting a bad environment, bad people, and a mismatch of schools out of my life in one go, resulting in three of the best years of my life.

Two takeaways from that story: one, I am absolutely not saying that it takes a huge major change to find what makes you happy. But looking back, you might be surprised to remember a moment that served as a turning point for you, even if it didn't seem so significant at the time. Second, if you're really, truly unhappy or feeling so lost that it's hard to carry on from day to day, big major changes are not out of the question! You can do anything you want to do, even if it seems impossible. The things you want to do that seem impossible are often the best things to do anyway!

The last thing I can say is, don't worry about who you are, worry about who you want to be, and be thankful for who you no longer are. Making small, conscious efforts to be a happy, social, successful human everyday is much easier than trying to find one solution to a whole bunch of negative feelings, and over time habits like those will become engrained and will stick with you for life. However, don't be afraid to do something crazy every once in a while, and most of all don't worry because you're doing amazing!