In Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, every adolescent reaches a point when they must face the crossroads of identity and role-confusion. According to Erikson, adolescents must deal with an “identity crisis” in order to form a full commitment to their identities. My intention is not to show off fancy-pants psychology theories to prove a point, but it does serve a purpose.
Now, it’s pretty convenient that I’m in the dénouement of my personal identity crisis at the midpoint of my college career, but fate doesn’t wait – it just sort of happens. The reason for the crisis is that, until recently, I’ve been absolutely terrified of growing up and it’s because I’d heard the question “so what do you want to be?” one too many times.
The question bugged me so darn much because I couldn’t help but think, “I am already what I’ll ‘be!’” Perhaps my profession might change from student to something more monetarily rewarding, but I personally will be just about the same. I’ll still be a tall, olive-skinned goofball with immigrant parents and a penchant for Woody Allen movies and oral sex. But I guess that wasn’t a reasonable response for the questioners, so I pondered.
As a result of “the question,” growing up became synonymous with finding a profession. So I found the easiest solution: refuse to age. I started to visit my parents every weekend for an unhealthy dose of coddling, I adorned my entire room in Mickey Mouse decorations from when I was six, and even jammed to Big Willie Style to reminisce about the days of yore.
All the while, my parents continued pestering me about going to law school so I can be a real, upstanding citizen of the world.
So, reasonably, I resisted more. I started to take my classes less seriously and got written up several times in the dorms, subconsciously hoping that if I didn’t succeed at this whole college thing, I could somehow ease back into pre-teen bliss.
But, after writing a bunch of sad poems filled with more angst than a stadium of Evanescence fans, I realized you can run all you want, but you can’t hide from yourself. I knew the future was imminent, and I had no choice but to face it head-on.
It was about that time that I watched Ali. In the movie, Ali (played by Will Smith) is being lectured by his advisors about the press and a recent statement. He erupts, “I ain’t gotta be what nobody else want me to be. And I ain’t afraid to be what I want to be, think what I wanna think.” Double negatives aside, he makes an amazing point.
As students, we all struggle with the idea of our future and where we’re headed, but there is absolutely nothing that we’re supposed to be. And it’s invaluable to figure that out before the end of this college experience.
All that we can do is follow our talents and our interests and do what intrigues us, and hope that along the way, other people will relate. For better or worse, we’ll be proud of the result, because it’s ours.
So what I offer to the faithful readers of this fine publication: stay grounded not in expectations, but in yourselves. And never settle for less than you’re worth for the simple excuse that someone told you you should.
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