Truthfully, I feel that I took on the role of "the nerd" in high school, not because I fit any sort of academic standard but because I was ridiculously shy. Growing up with a shadow of insecurity and uncertainty about myself ultimately lead to the shyness that I carried with me throughout school. People who've gotten to know me recently are shocked to find out about my so-called "high school" persona. So how is that I can be a different person than I was five months ago?
The truth is I'm not a different person, at all really. It's the same me sitting in my lecture hall at 8 a.m. this morning that was sitting in my high school library during lunch exactly five months ago. But sometimes when so many other people make their mind up about you, it's hard not to start believing it. So to the girl sitting in front of her screen right now wondering if the image that I'm painting of myself is starting to look like you, I hope I can give you some words of encouragement. I promise you, you aren't the person that everyone says you are.
They only get to see a sliver of you. They get to hear you talk about your dreams, but they don't get to see you crying wondering if you'll ever be able to achieve them. They might see you getting an "A", but they won't ever see the hours and hours of work it took to get it. They'll see you in an outfit in the hallways but won't get to see you struggling to face your image in the mirror.
I think people get too caught up in labels; trying to fit people into boxes when there's no "one size fits all". I can vividly remember sitting and studying in my room for hours at night just to make sure that I had the answer to every question the next day in class. It was exhausting constantly feeling like I was trying to live up to being "the smart girl"; an expectation of something that I clearly wasn't, at least not all of the time.
And you probably weren't labeled the same thing as me, but maybe it was"the funny one" or the "social butterfly". Regardless, I know how draining it can feel to try to fit a mold of something that you aren't. I remember thinking how easy it would be to fulfill an identity that was so uniquely yours that it required no effort. Instead, I was pretending to be something that I wasn't, and so desperately hoping that I could fulfill it and be what everyone else wanted me to be. Of course, I always had the opportunity to change what others felt about me, I'm not denying that. But if you're reading this, I'm sure you know it feels close to impossible.
I truly believe that I can't be the only one struggling with my identity after coming into college and realizing that nobody really knew who I was before. I know there are people reading this that are finding new things out about themselves every day that they didn't even know existed. Nobody knows the labels that you've lived with your whole life. It's refreshing to know that you have a brand new fresh start right in front of you.
So yes, there's this sense of hope, but what comes next? Who are you really?
So if you're reading this and realizing that you've been living in the shadow of labels, you're not alone. It's hard (!!!), and we're all struggling with a form of it in some way, but I promise you can get through it. There's always hope in new beginnings, whether that be a college, a new school, a new family, or just a new day where you decide to change something.
I'm just now coming to terms with the fact that I haven't really found myself yet, and it's a process that has so much more to do with writing an article or making a pact with myself. It's not going to happen overnight and you have to be okay with that. But eventually, you'll find safety in your own identity; other people's words will start to become irrelevant to your self-worth. I'm working and looking forward to that day, and I hope I can help to lead anyone struggling with the same thing in the right direction.
You'll find yourself, eventually. Be patient.