A guest column by Sammy Kodama
Sammy Kodama lives in Lakewood. She is a senior at Charles Wright Academy in University Place. She plans to attend the University of San Diego next fall and wrote this essay as part of the college admissions process.
“Just be yourself!” A common adage we often hear being given by parents to their college-bound teenagers. It sounds so simple. How hard should it be to act natural? Yet, parents often forgot the difficulties of this request due to the fact that they have already have had years to establish their personalities and become content with who they are.
As young adults we have some sense of what it means to be “oneself”: we know our names, have a general idea of our good and bad qualities, and have established our interests. However, these attributes are based on our lives in the small, high school sphere.
Often, most high school students and their friends have lived in the same city all their life and have similar values and outlooks. Therefore, it is difficult for teenagers to completely “be themselves” when they have cultivated these interests and characteristics in such a shared and common culture. I believe that it is only when one steps out of his or her comfort zone that the journey to be and discover oneself can truly begin.
There is no official definition explaining the steps involved in the journey to be oneself. This journey, in my mind, emphasizes the fact that human beings are always evolving and will continue to change and transform as we age in our thoughts, physical attributes, and emotions.
As time progresses we are faced with challenging situations and people with different types of personalities. It is the lessons we learn from facing these challenges that determine the course of our journey towards self-discovery. We can become successful, motivated, focused individuals who contribute to society, or we can become selfish, material-obsessed creatures. The journey is, by no means, set in stone.
A successful journey to be oneself requires a resolved commitment to maintain an accurate moral compass in order to avoid costly emotional and mental detours along the way. It is necessary to avoid being blinded by detrimental prejudices, beliefs, and mindsets. The determination to stay with one’s moral beliefs in all times of peril, frustration, and pressure is a fundamental step in truly discovering oneself.
The journey of self-discovery is risky since it is really quite different from what our culture promotes. If you look in any magazine, you often see images of gloss, glitz, and material wealth, even though our biases and desires can hide their faults at times. In a sense we are brainwashed into thinking that those things are the secret to happiness.
However, true happiness requires an individual to fight off the pressure of popular culture and acknowledge that there is something more important in life than looking the trendiest or having the newest, most sought after technology.
The journey to be oneself requires one to step back from society, step back from popular culture and the media, and discover what desires exist, not outside or around you, but inside of you: the desire to learn an instrument, to travel, to become a doctor, the list can go on and on. Self-discovery is learning to obey your personal desires and avoid the artificial desires of popular culture.
College is, basically, the beginning of the journey to be oneself because it is the first time young adults are on their own. Parents are no longer present to continually guide them and long-time friends, who often cautioned them before making a stupid decision, are now scattered around the country. The opportunities to succeed and fail are much larger, and in turn, the temptation to wander off the narrow path of staying true to your own values is greater.
In college one of the biggest challenges is maintaining your own values while at the same time trying to fit in. Peer pressure is at its peak in college. Many freshmen will make the common mistake of going to an extra party instead of using this time to study. Once in these situations, the pressure to drink in order to fit in can increase the chances of making an unwise decision or, in the worst-case scenario, becoming an alcoholic.
Honing the ability to resist peer pressure and having the discipline to study when everyone else is going out is difficult but rewarding in the long run since it helps you to establish your own principles and beliefs.
On the other side of the spectrum, it is risky not to take enough risks. Not taking enough risks does not allow you to discover new experiences and find out what makes you sad or happy. Lack of experience prevents you from forming your personal opinion and if you cannot discern good from bad, you will not have an accurate set of morals to live by.
Uncertainty is riskier than awareness because the latter allows you to be conscious and prepared for the possible hazards ahead while the former blinds you, inadvertently leaving you uninformed and defenseless.
I know the journey towards adulthood will be fraught with danger and obstacles. Yet, the journey can be thrilling and full of valuable lessons just waiting to be discovered. I wrote a mantra at age thirteen stating that I would like to make a difference in someone’s life. I look forward to continuing a life with purpose, growing intellectually, and holding onto my sense of compassion and duty.