Annual Identity Crises

Self-LimitationWhen I graduated in grade 8, I really believed that all of my friends back then would be my friends for life. I didn’t factor in some of us moving out of the city, or going to different high schools. And for those of us attending the same high school, I didn’t think about shifting social circles and stronger outlines forming between cliques.

All my life I was considered to be a “nice” and “smart” girl. I really liked that title. Of course sometimes I wanted to be “hot” and “cool” but other individuals already represented those traits way better than I could fake. Part of the expectation of being the “nice” and “smart” girl was being friends with most of my peers and getting straight A’s. I started accepting that was who I am and will always be.

I remember little tidbits of high school, such as doing lots of people pleasing, and being bullied by people of my own race for being a sell-out or white-washed (that is another post within itself). I was actually really stressed out in high school because I liked being who I was, but there were some elements I had that I wanted to trade – I wanted to be more laid back and “fun,” I didn’t want to stress about failing every test even though I studied hard, I didn’t want to be shy. I also really wanted to have a boyfriend because it seemed like such a big experience that I was missing out on. But what was most important to me was being liked by everyone, and being known for my intelligence.

So I graduated. I was even nominated to be Valedictorian! Then it was off to university. And when it’s a decision between York and U of T, you’ve got to maintain that image of having the utmost intelligence, so life convinced me that my fate lied within the more prestigious of the two. Once again I went through a mini-identity crisis. Here I could become anyone I want because -other than the 5 people I went to high school with – no one knew me! But still, at the pit of me, I was that “nice, smart” girl. I stressed about making friends and getting good grades. My grades fell, and my social circle from high school shrunk.

comfort zoneIn my second year of university I decided to challenge myself in different ways to extend the boundaries of my comfort zone. I joined different clubs, applied for different jobs, and was exposed to new people. I loved it, and didn’t stop until I graduated. So as my grades rose and social circle expanded, even though I still returned to being the “nice, smart” girl, I was also skilled in health and wellness, fitness, coordinating a mentorship program, hosting a radio show, being a program director of the school’s radio station, a peer counsellor for study skills, and many other things. I was multi-faceted! I even had an on/off boyfriend, I thought I was whole.

getting-out-of-your-comfort-zoneThen I graduated. And this past year has been the biggest change for me. Starting a new program which is incredibly focused, I’m with the same group of people day in, day out. At this point I don’t know if I want to be the “smart, nice” girl anymore. I don’t want to stress about failing anymore. I want to be involved like I was before but I don’t have the roomy schedule as I did before. I also didn’t want my circle to shrink again. I’ve tried re-connecting with some friends whom I mistakenly thought would be good friends forever, but with those friends, many times it was either me putting all the effort, or plans falling through. For some of us who have reconnected, there’s been an awkward, uncomfortable air around us. I’m the common denominator in all of this, so it must mean something is wrong with me, right?

Not necessarily – yes, I’ve changed, but not in a destructive way. If anything, life is making it clearer for me to feel out the relationships which are more sustainable: previous supervisors are now friends, my ex-boyfriend has become my best friend, and some friendships which tend to be tough have proven to be devoted friendships which will be able to outlast anything the future holds.

I think I’ve finally taken away what I think are supposed to be several lessons of my changing environment and relationships:

1. Do not live your life by a title and place yourself in a mould.

Instead live your life by your core values. You are allowed to change and will continue to change, but don’t stress yourself by hindering your transformation. Embrace this natural process, you’re growing and it’s called life.

2. You will encounter different types of people throughout your life.

Everyone is trying to get somewhere, and sometimes you’re meant to help someone in someway. In some instances, people will be forever grateful and never forget how you’ve helped them, whereas some people will use you and be onto the next step. Don’t expect to always be remembered though, as whenever you have helped someone, you have done a beautiful thing and are changing your life for the better, even if you do not see it immediately.

3. There are different ways that friendships begin – some stem from convenience, others stem from two hearts being in alignment.

I can say this because I’ve become friends with people and developed an immense amount of love for them and genuinely felt it in return with no question of doubt. The cliche way to explain it is being on the same wavelength. However, to balance things out, some friendships will take more effort to maintain, whereas others will seem effortless. But both can be very valuable.

4. In regards to those friendships which require extra effort, put some thought towards the ones which you’d like to continue versus the ones it may be time to end.

I have a few best friends and most of them have stuck with me through arguments and tough experiences and vice versa. We don’t always get along, but we do have a commitment of good intentions towards each other and are constantly learning to agree while being able to respectfully disagree. These are my friends that I’ll keep for the rest of my life even though they require extra patience and effort.

On the other hand, I have some friendships that I felt obligated to keep because we’ve been friends for so long, or because some are family. But when it became too much to handle and I could tell they had ill intentions towards me, it was time to pull some distance between us. That doesn’t mean the door is completely closed, but it will take time to mend and many changes need to be made to renew those friendships.

5. Just because you’re in a different place or headed in different directions, doesn’t put you above anyone. 

Some people get caught up in their achievements and ambitions, and begin to believe that others who do not have the same ambitions or haven’t achieved as much as them are lesser than them. You may be wise in one way, but someone else is wiser in another way because they put their time towards learning something that you didn’t. And just because you are on a different path does not make you “above” or unrelatable. Whether you’re the president of a school group or a young teenager who was trying to find a home in a gang and is now finding a moralistic way to live, at our most basic level we are all human.  It’s important to remain humble. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you are unable to know when you’ve attracted the wrong company, and end up losing the company who really did care for you.