Monday, April 2, 2012
Definitions are a constant. They're something we can understand, something we can cling to, something that is universally accepted. They're comforting. I know no matter where I go in the world, a plate is going to be a flat dish which food is served and eaten on. No matter if it is called plato, piastra, or assiette. A plate is a plate. That's never going to change. And it's comforting to know that; to know that some things in this world do stay the same.
Definitions are also a way of explaining things. It gives us a way to identify something. It would be a very confusing world if everything was simply accepted without any rhyme or reason. "Well, why? Why is that furry fabric a coat? Why not a rug? Why not a blanket?" Think about how often little kids ask the question, "Why?" They want to know why about everything. Little kids are smart. "Why should I believe you? Give me one good reason." They want an explanation; they want a definition.
In our society, we tend to like to define people, too. Think of all the labels we put on people. The athletes, the techies, the punks, the divas, the "populars", the geeks, the theatre kids, the artsy kids, the list goes on and on. We're all guilty of it. Even on this blog my posts are labeled based on common themes. Why do we do this? Why do we label? Because it's a way for us to try and organize everything in our brains. Our brains like to see things in neat boxes, stacked one on top of the other, and labeled. It's easier that way. No questions asked. It just is.
The problem with labels is that we tend to attach ourselves to them. There's a comfort in knowing so and so as the track captain, as the dancer, whatever it may be. All of a sudden when they change, sometimes it's hard for our brain to reconfigure where they "fit in." A baseball coach sees a promising pitcher when the boy is in 5th grade and gets excited. He trains him, he brings him far. Everyone knows the boy for being the star pitcher. Of course he'll go into the MLB when he's older. But then high school comes around and the boy tries track, and he realizes he likes track so much better. He has to choose between baseball and track. In his heart, he knows the track is where he wants to be. But everyone knows him to be the star pitcher. He is the star pitcher.
But just because he was a star pitcher throughout middle school, does that mean he has to be the star pitcher in high school? Who would he be pitching for? Himself, or everyone else? He can only live his life for himself. We can only live our lives for ourself. People may say, "What a shame. You had so much potential." People may be angry, disappointed, but it doesn't matter. Your true friends, the people who really matter, know you for you and will love you unconditionally. As Dr. Seuss wrote, "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." The fact is, you can put labels on food produce, but you can't put them on people, because people change. Who you were in kindergarten most likely is different from who you are now. That's okay. In fact, it's probably a good thing!
High school is all about redefining who we are. It's the time to try new things, experiment, expand our horizons. Just because we loved something last year, doesn't mean we have to do it for the rest of our lives. We may find something we like better down the road, and just because it happened "down the road," does that mean we should stay on the path we're on because that's all we've ever known? Because we're "satisfied?" Or should we take a bit of a risk and try something new? Verge off and travel down the path where we won't just be "satisfied" but we'll be happy?
In 5th grade I wrote a poem titled, "Who Am I?" (I apologize for the amateur writing and the lack of poetic quality, but I thought the message was valid.)
Who Am I?
"Who am I?"
I often asked my father.
"You are a superstar,"
Was one of his many wise replies.
"Who am I?"
Was what I asked my friend when I wanted a compliment
And she was always willing to give me one.
"You are a kind and giving, and understanding friend," was one of my favorites.
"Who am I?"
Was what I asked my teacher when I wanted to know about my future,
And she would reply, "You are a girl with a brilliant, and wonderful future."
"Who am I?"
Was what I asked my grandmother when I was in need of a hug,
And she would embrace me and say, "You are the reflection of God himself."
"Who am I?"
Was what I asked my mother one day when I was wondering how other people saw me
And this time I didn't hear one of the usual compliments.
Instead I heard, "You are you, and it doesn't matter what I, or what others think of you."
"All that matters is what you think of yourself."
I thought for a moment, and then finally understood what my mother was saying.
So from that day on, I never asked my father, or anyone else, "Who am I?"
Instead, I asked myself, "Who am I?"
And I soon realized that my responses were what comforted me the most.
Because I no longer had to worry about what others would say when I asked them, "Who am I?"
All I had to do was think of the positive things about myself.
And in reality, like my mother said, that was all that really mattered.
It seems like in 5th grade I had a pretty good idea about whose opinion mattered most in defining who I am. Maybe I've gone backwards since 5th grade. I wish I could say the last stanza was true, because I find myself constantly seeking for reassurance about who I am, where I fit into this big world. I guess the main thing to keep in mind is that even how I define myself now in high school will likely change as I grow older. Life is all about redefining. It would be boring if it stayed the same all the time! (I sound like a hypocrite saying this because I struggle so much with change, but I know it's true.)
No matter how old or young you are, it's never too late to redefine who you are. That's why we call them crazy dreams. They may seem crazy, they may seem scary, we may not even be able to explain them. And that's exactly why we should follow them.
Sweet Crazy Dreams,