Friday morning on campus is a time when some of us drink our morning coffee and read the Old Gold & Black, the WFU student newspaper. I was reading the OG&B online this morning, and stumbled across this editorial entitled Developing One’s Identity Is a Lifelong Task, by Zoe Gonzalez. It is an interesting read.
We’ve mentioned several times in the Daily Deac that we have been working on ZSRx Parents and Families: Deacon Development 101, our online course for parents and families. The course is going to talk about how students in Generation Y (the Millennials) experience their college years and some of the important facets of their growth. One important way that students develop in college is about identity – who they are, where they see themselves in the world, what matters to them, etc. (If you want to provide your contact info on this form, we’ll send you information when ZSRx Parents and Families is ready to roll!)
This editorial delves into some of the identity issue for college students – how do you figure out who you are? what parts might be changeable? How do you want to define yourself? It’s not necessarily who your friends or family want you to be. Not who (or what) you thought you were going to be. Who you feel like you are, as a person, right now.
Ms. Gonzalez hits it right on the head when she says: “So being whatever you want to be will take some strategic decision-making too. The good news is that any doubts holding you back manifest primarily in your own head, a place over which you have total control.” I was meeting with a student the other day who was wrestling over some of these questions. My advice to that student was easy to say, but hard to do:
‘find out who you are – and then be that person.’
I can’t swear all of your students are wrangling with the issue of their identity right now, or that it is in the forefront of their minds. But my sense is that there are moments where many (most? all?) of them start to think about these questions, and begin to form their own answers. My wish is that as they decide who they are, and be that person, that they all find themselves among friends and family who will – in the words of one of my favorite cohorts in my grad program – will “hold them in very soft hands.”
Ms. Gonzalez’s full article is below, or you can read it (and other things) in the Old Gold & Black online.
Developing one’s identity is a lifelong task
I think by now we all know where we came from. I hope you’ve had that chat by now. But as we enter this new academic year, what are we going be? We don’t have much control over where we grew up, who our family is or the life we’ve lived up until now, but we do have control over what we’ll be in the future.
I see the crafting of one’s identity as similar to trying to walk in the city — you have to dodge things, moving or stationary, in order to design a path that’s right for you. Some things repeat on the street (fire hydrants, stop signs) just like some obstacles in your life will repeat themselves (class registration, for instance).
Some things you only get one chance to experience (the crazy guy on the street corner or that interesting new club). Both will require you to make choices (when to cross the street or what major to choose) or you might end up with regrets (dead on the road or in a career that bores you).
So being whatever you want to be will take some strategic decision-making too. The good news is that any doubts holding you back manifest primarily in your own head, a place over which you have total control.
I don’t like to say, “be yourself” or “be different,” because who really knows who they are? Whether you’re 19 or 49, this question is tricky. I say, be whatever it is you want to be, but be it not because your new best friends are pressuring you or you want to impress some cute guy or girl. Be what you want to be because you like it. If nobody else wants to be that too and you stand out, then yeah, you’ll be different. Trying to be different just for the sake of being “unique” is not guaranteeing that you’ll happy with whatever supposedly original or one-of-a-kind identity you’re taking on. Besides, few things beat the feeling of finding someone who is as obsessed with whatever you love as much as you are.
You can also change up your identity whenever and however you want. When I came back from studying abroad in France, I was all about dressing super sophisticated, eating in the continental style and in general pretending I was French. But now I’m like “sweatpants can be chic too,” have become a pro at eating all my meals with the one piece of silverware I own, and am truly proud to be American.
Acting like I was French didn’t mean I was faking whoever I was, I just happened to be that at the time.
So again, be whatever you want to be, regardless of what you are now. People might think you’re being a poser at first, but eventually if they are your true friends, they’ll be cool with it.
There will be other times when defining yourself won’t be like the thrill and adrenaline rush of walking in New York City. Occasionally, it will be more like running straight into an army of haters. I imagine a battle scene from a movie like Troy or 300 where the armies meet in some open field to charge at each other. While 95 percent of the guys die within 30 seconds, the ones who survive come out stronger. Don’t be one of the 95 percent of young people who let others dictate who they are.
Don’t take the easy path. Yes, it will take some energy, determination and downright conviction, but I promise, becoming the person you want to be is worth overcoming every 10-thousand-man army you encounter along the way.
Categories: campus life