Growing Pains: The journey of self-discovery

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Who are you?

“Just be yourself.” If you’re a kid born in the last few decades, you probably heard that a lot. It’s decent advice, but how are you supposed to know who “yourself” is? We’re one of the first generations given the chance to do pretty much whatever we want with our lives. Most of us don’t have to stay on Tatooine forever, fixing droids for Uncle Owen. But that means there’s no guidebook to tell you who you’re supposed to be, or how you’re supposed to get there when you figure it out.

If you’re a new face at university, you’re probably nervous about the faculty you picked, whether you can hack it for four years or more, and whether or not you’re going to make any friends. When I started, I registered in sociology, and pressed the faculty eject button as soon as I could. I realized it just wasn’t a good fit for me, and what I really wanted to do was writing. I was shy, and I’d largely hated high school, but I found friends eventually anyway.

But even now, four years later, those of us starting fifth-year victory laps or working nine-to-five jobs still struggle with knowing where we’re gonna be a decade from now, and whether we like who we are so far. Lately, I’ve found myself getting into these long-winded discussions with my friends about those very things, and this column is the result of those talks.

There’s just never gonna be an easy answer to who you are. We spend our whole lives working on that question. The way we think, the way we act, how we treat others and ourselves, whether we live to work or work to live — whatever you are the day before you die is what gets written on your tombstone.

That’s good though, because it means we have tons of time to work on it. If you go into arts but you end up being a Bill Nye, you still have time to switch majors, whatever year you’re in. If you’ve started investing people’s nest eggs for a living, it’s not too late to be a grease monkey. If you repped Mom’s Zellers couture from K to 12, or treated people meaner then you meant to, you will get loads of chances to reinvent yourself. Especially if you’re in first year and nobody knows your name yet.

It’s easy to get caught up in life and stop thinking about how those things we do tie in to the long view. So it’s important, every once in a while, to take a step back and think about how the big picture is going. That’s what this column is for — thinking about how we can be better people. We’ll talk about stuff like how to take criticism, what strength means, where motivation comes from and whether or not role models are important. We’ll look at some events and opinions coming out in the world to keep an eye on the context of our lives.

In the end, the process of discovering who you are is what makes you who you are.

So think of this as your weekly self-image checkup. Welcome to Growing Pains.

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