When I was in high school I didn't know where I belonged. I chased the person I thought I needed to be and lost a true sense of the real me. I only noticed because I caught myself doing things I normally wouldn’t do. But I did them. They were dumb. I guess I was dumb. As they say, guilty by association. I was hanging around with so called popular people who where having a good time. In our case, having a good time meant not taking anything seriously. We laughed at smart students who took school way too serious. We laughed while doing silly things in the classroom and at anyone who was annoyed by the dumb jokes we made. Actually, we laughed at anyone for any reason we could find. We laughed off bad grades, pretending that they didn't matter. At some point the teasing and laughing at others wasn’t funny anymore. At some point it was mean. But I laughed because they were laughing. I laughed because I didn’t want them laughing at me. I wasn't confident or comfortable being myself! I often heard quotes that said, “Be yourself” or “Find yourself”, but I hated hearing that! What kind of advice was that! What did that really mean? Who was I? Was I like them? Yes, but no, if that makes sense. I never thought about those things until I realized that they stole my identity.
I was hijacked, but didn't know it yet. I can only admit this now, but back then I could never admit any of this. At the end of the day I was doing what they were doing. I was a part of something I didn't like and was right there in the middle of it all. I didn't want to be like them, but I became like them. The progression was slow. It didn't see any of it coming. I had a rude awakening when I heard my best friend talk about me when she didn't know I was listening. She described me as someone that I didn't recognize. She described some truths that I thought I was hiding. I remember struggling with being insecure. I thought that being me was not good enough, funny enough, or smart enough. As my cover, I became part of a group just to fit in. But I was fitting in among the wrong people. My desire to be accepted made me more invisible to all the right people, like good teachers and students that were all about college. I barely made it to the community college. I only went to college because my parents pushed me to go. I can now compare high school to where I am today. It took me a while, but finally got passed the community college and transferred to a university. I’m going to be a senior this year and have recently figured out an important life lesson that has helped me understand the person that I am and the person I aspire to be.
In high school, who I was or looking to become was gone, lost. When we are there, in high school, life can be complicated. Figuring out our own identity is in the middle of everything else that's new and complicated. I never really thought about – Who am I? What do I want to be later in life? How do I get there? Those questions were just so hard, but not asking or caring about those questions was a big mistake. Now I can see that those questions were important, even if I didn't have answers. More importantly, I realize that figuring out who we are takes creating ourselves, not “finding” ourselves. I think that we create our own identities in two major ways. First, we create our own identity by the choices that we make everyday. The choices we make are about where we spend our time, who we spend our time with, and definitely what we are doing. If I chose to do nothing, then I feel like nothing. If I chose to be lazy way too much, then I feel lazy. If I chose to read or pay attention, then I can feel smart because I understand what’s in front of me. If I choose to ask important questions, then overtime I will find answers to those questions. I realize that the choices that I make either make me feel dumb, smart, confident, or many other ways in between.
The choices that I made led to experiences. Making new experiences happen is the second way we create our identities. In high school my experiences tied my identity to the wrong people and ideas. I’m now a senior in college and over the last two years I’ve met friends that are doing positive things. Some of them belong to campus clubs, they also volunteer their time for community events, and others are busy studying because they are focused on life after college. They’re all doing something that matters. We attend each other’s events. Hanging around them has inspired me to do the same. I spend my time either with my friends doing cool things or tutoring high school students. My identity is not tied to them, but I’m learning from them. We are a tight group! We are about keeping life fun through new experiences. These experiences have helped me better understand my own interests, curiosities, goals, and well, my identity. I still don't have myself figured out, but I like the person that I’m creating and recreating through the choices that I make everyday and the experiences that follow.
~ Donovan Garcia