On letting go of who you want to be and accepting who you are

With less than a month to go before I’ll have completed my undergraduate education, there’s been a lot of reflecting going on around me. As I look back on the person I’ve become and the person I used to be, it’s hard for me to imagine how I got to where I am today.

Call it what you want—growing up, gaining experiences, or maturing—I’ve changed since my freshman year.

Thinking I wanted to be one of these was fun for a while.

When I entered college, I was pre-med. I wanted to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. The prospect of a career as a doctor was intriguing to me, partly because of the money and stability, partly because I had no idea what else to do with my life and I had liked biology in high school. As I exit the University of Michigan, I’ll be pursuing a career in journalism. Undoubtedly, I won’t have a stable career. Journalism, as a profession, is one of great movement. I’m assuming I’ll have more than a couple job changes before I’m 25. Who knows, I might even change professions again.

Right around the same time I decided to pursue journalism, some other changes were happening.

For my first two years of college (and this probably applies more to sophomore year), I had in my head an idea of who I wanted to be. The old me used to go to the library every day. I finished papers well in advance of when they were due. I used to proofread everything. I used to attend every single class period. I would wake up at 7 a.m. every morning, including weekends, just so I could say that I did. If I wasn’t in bed by midnight, something was wrong. I would forego hanging out with friends because I had an orgo exam. But I wasn’t doing wonderfully in school. It was frustrating to work so hard and still feel like a failure. I made my bed every day and kept my room spotless. I wanted to appear perfect to the outside world, but I was shy and scared. I never participated in class, oral presentations scared me, and I was self-conscious about everything. I would stress about every little imperfection.

This is so cheesy, right?

Eventually I came to the realization that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I dropped any pretense that I was, or could ever be, a perfect human being. I started to let go of some of the control that I felt I needed. I changed my major to something more attainable (Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science). I began to open up more in front of my friends. I put my flaws on display.

Whereas I used to suppress all emotions and pretend to be happy all the time, now I can recognize my unhappiness. I used to be content. Looking back, my emotions were flat-lined. Now, I even let myself wallow in unhappiness and self-loathing, but it only makes those happy moments that much better. I’m definitely having more fun. I’ve learned to not take myself (and life) so seriously. I participate all the time in class without worrying that everyone thinks I’m stupid; oral presentations in front of a class of 80 are no sweat.

I’m hesitant to call my old self insecure, but looking back, that had to have been the unrecognized root of at least some of my problems. Not all the changes I’ve experienced were positive. Some have had negative effects on my life, but I’ve matured and I’m embracing the new me. Or is it the real me?

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One thought on “On letting go of who you want to be and accepting who you are

  1. You’re right on! Sometimes you need to drop the expectations to really learn who you are and where you really want to go. I will caution you though … there are 20’s something all over the country living in the moment who face regrets and challenges 30 and older.

    Drop the expectations… learn who you are… embrace who you are… and set new expectations and goals that will lead you to fulfillment. You’re 20’s are a blank canvas… you can’t paint whatever you want. You can even mix in some other colors and start over if you need to. The closer you get to 30, the more those rules change.

    Live it up… learn all you can about what’ your passionate about… and be intentional with your future.

    Great post!

    Good luck!

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