Thursday, May 29, 2014

Onwards & Upwards!

When summer rolls around in the city that never sleeps, the stress of finals has a way of burying itself in the long and forgotten past, and twenty-somethings from all boroughs dress up in their finest heels and ties to impress their bosses and colleagues-to-be. Shoulders are held high, smiles are plastered on, and handshakes are practiced firm. While beginning to adapt to this new lifestyle of professionalism, young interns like myself are often found on the corner of 42nd and Lex, dumping shots of espresso down our throats faster than the scent can be inhaled, and spending our hours after dusk blathering on about our aspirations much faster than they can be worked on. We share high hopes, and also high minds.

Since being away at college each year gives us the opportunity to grow into our skin and develop our character based on choices made day-by-day, our perceptions of the people we once grew close to change in this critical time period, and it is natural to find yourself astounded, inspired, or judgmental, or all of the above. This can happen in either of two ways: as we recall certain facets of their past, suddenly encountering them after some time can either be a pleasant surprise, in which we respect their growth in this gap of time where our lives couldn't cross paths, or we may find disdain in the people they have become, and perhaps subjectively measure our own maturation as more accelerated, thereby seeking the companionship of others who are up to speed. After all, growth is everything. 

They say that we grow to be a product of the five people we spend the most time with, but I tend to disagree, though it may be the case for children. I think that really, there's a lot more that factors into who we become. Over the past few months, I've engaged in conversation about what it means to be an adult, since it identifies as the root of most of my inner discord, experienced firsthand, each day. Some have argued that it has to do with financial independence, or when you find yourself with the responsibility of someone's happiness other than your own (often with the birth of a child). I've primarily thought that I'm not quite ready to grow up, but as of late I've come to a different understanding of it all - it has to do with growth. This brings me comfort, because it is entirely possible to enjoy one's youth (or preservation of youth), while also working to develop/better oneself. While each person's definition and requirements are different and entirely dependent on which qualities speak most to her/him, here are some of mine. 

First and foremost, I spend time with myself, in my own head, with thoughts that are so difficult to articulate at times (so much so that I haven't shared my writing in months). Secondly, I spend time with the many, many characters I believe the people around me to be, and thirdly, I spend some amount of time with the inferences I make about what others think of me. Though agonizing over what others think of you is always fruitless, recognizing the effect of your presence/behavior is crucial towards self-awareness, which allows for self-criticism and leaves room to become better. Earlier this year, I recall being brutally honest with one of my roommates, and while I thought it would be helpful for her to hear the truth, it may have also come across as insensitive. I apologized the second I realized it, but I should have been more thoughtful about my words right then, not in the aftermath. Growth of character happens when you can point out your own shortcomings and make an actual effort to fix them. 

This brings me to a second point. In my mind, growth entails developing the confidence to "fix" your character, in order to rise to your best self. Time and time again, I hear the tiresome excuse: "It's just my personality - you can't change who you are." The issue with this is that you most certainly CAN! In fact, this misconceived notion parallels the idea that you have no autonomy over your own character - which isn't true - and a quote by author Alice Walker proves my point best: "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." If you notice something you'd like to improve upon, don't think that you can't (or don't need to). I want people to stray away from the misconception that you shouldn't "change yourself" because you should be true to yourself. I'm saying that they're not mutually exclusive. Staying true to yourself just entails not putting up a facade. Building character might make you a better person from who you were yesterday, but it doesn't change your fundamental being. In my mind, you can build character while being genuine in all that you say and do. 

To recap, becoming an "adult" is about growth, and you can keep choosing to move forward. We all grow into the people we have the confidence to become. 

Onwards and upwards!


  1. Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussion, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

    1. ^ I love this quote since it's so beautifully written, but it has much to do with patience, which isn't exactly the point I was making. Instead, I'm advocating for the ability to take charge of personal goals/who you want to become, rather than allowing for nature to take its course in development (which it will do, regardless). I agree that progress can't be forced, but I think there's a difference between it being forced and it being developed/worked on. Thoughts?