What rules do you follow as you live your life? If you’re thrown into a freezing ocean, do you try to survive as long as you can or attempt to get out of it? What if you were too far from the coast, would you still try to reach the shore?
Growing up, I was always told I “control how my life turns out,” and I believe that. Every action causes something to happen either immediately or later on. I believe that I am in control of myself and what I want. It is only a matter of really attempting to make that true.
What does it really mean to be in control of myself? I personally think that it’s the ability to slow down in stressful situations, to have an awareness of my actions as I’m doing them. I associate this kind of awareness with a concept from A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, in which Viktor says: “Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually.”
“What shall become of” is a phrase that deeply resonates with me. I decide what eventually happens in life. All actions have this domino effect, where the future can be a cause of the past.
Thinking of life and “how you live it,” Happy is a documentary I’m reminded of, which researches the origins and causes of happiness. As social psychologist and writer, Daniel Gilbert said in the film: “People overestimate how much impact both good and bad events will have on them in the future.”
There’s always a reason that can show me what kind of person I am. But what do I look to when I want to grow as a person; change? Reflecting on my life, I’d give up a copious amount in order to have a constant awareness on what I do.
However, I can change how my life turns out with actions. On this line of changing for the better, I’m reminded of when I began high school.
When I was a freshman in high school, I struggled with socializing. I was always incredibly nervous and found it hard to speak like my throat was being tightened by a notch. I worried about how my peers viewed me: I didn’t want a repeat experience having classmates not like me.
Despite being reassured by my older brother, who also attended my school at the time, I worried about everything I would do. It got to the point where I stressed myself out daily, over-analyzing every word, every action, every facial expression I would make. When I finally admitted my worries to my brother, I had changed in a way that will forever impact me.
It was a day similar to every other. I just finished my volleyball practice for that day and I was exhausted. I watched myself walk over to my bag and water bottle.
It felt a little robotic, how my muscles knew where to go and I didn’t really have to think about it. The sound of rustling was barely audible as we all shuffled over to the tables. I crouched down to my bag and instantly grabbed my water bottle.
I downed it, and reached out to grab my bag and rubbed my thumb on the familiar strap. Slinging it over my right shoulder, I got up and began saying my goodbyes.
I walked to my locker, and spun around the cold metal lock, putting in the combination I engraved into my brain. I grabbed my backpack and packed all the things I’d need that night. I met with my brother and we walked out to his car.
After settling in and starting to drive home, I finally mentioned what I was feeling.
“You know, I’m always worried that the same thing will happen this year,” referring to issues I’ve had in my previous schools. Back then I had been ostracized by my classmates and ridiculed even to my face. I fiddled with the hem of my shorts, feeling like my heart could burst.
“You need to remember that this school is different. The people here are different. It’s not the same anymore. Remember that, kiddo.”
My eyes welled up with tears. Waves ran through me, cold sensations slowly running through my body like a forming tidepool. The exhaustion began to take over, numbing me to the outside world. I let out the shakiest “Okay,” before calming down.
It was then where I realized that things were better than I led myself to believe. By taking a step and admitting how I felt, I had opened up a safe space for myself to be honest, and I reached a space where I could be reassured.
My stress didn’t control who I was; it didn’t control how other people saw me. It controlled my thoughts and my actions. How I think is entirely based on myself, and not on things that happen.
When I reflect on these things, I think of the book Siddhartha, a novel written by Hermann Hesse that explores topics of a spiritual journey and self-discovery, and this idea tends to ring in my mind: “It was the Self, the character and nature of which I wished to learn. I wanted to rid myself of the Self, to conquer it, but I could not conquer it, I could only deceive it, could only fly from it, could only hide from it.”
I can’t get rid of myself, I can’t attempt to be someone entirely different. However, I can slowly change the “Self,” change how the “Self” thinks and looks at things.
By changing how I allowed myself to view things, I allowed myself to be happier. But as I go on, I want to go on a search for these solutions and changes inside myself.
I can’t rely on my brother forever, because he has his own life to live. In the end, it is up to me to change who I am and what I do in life.
As I am following this journey in finding my identity, I am slowly learning more about myself, and aiding myself in figuring out who I want to be.