By Kiera Garcia
When living in an age where identity is everything, the idea of fluidity appears to be a perilous game. We’re expected to know who we are, our desires, and our beliefs, and know exactly how to articulate those thoughts.
I know that I fell victim to the idea that if I hadn’t had my whole life figured out by the time I was 18, I would have failed at life. After coming to university and having the subsequent almost quarter-life crisis of realising that I did not have my entire self figured out already, I realised how dull and colourless life would be if I never changed. The idea of being the same as I was when I was 13, and even the same as when I was 17, frightened me.
This does not make the process of evolving and developing your identity any easier. The cliché of ‘finding yourself’ is a never-ending process that can even be gruelling at times. The thought of not knowing oneself, even on the surface, is scary. It can make you feel as though you’re floating around, not cemented to any particular meaning or purpose. But despite this terror, we should be embracing the opportunity to become someone new, to understand who we are, and to progress towards the person we want to be.
Try experimenting with the concept of identity rather than rejecting it. In the busy world of people you feel don’t really get you, your identity can act as a safe sanctuary. But I hope you are not hanging onto expired identities in hopes of remaining true to the person you once were. If it’s got claw marks on it, it’s time to let it go.
Particularly after leaving home, there is a great deal of concern that you won’t make the same friends or fit in the same places. All of your friends are spread out around the city, country, or even the globe. You’re all creating new experiences and meeting new people. Of course, you are changing. If you weren’t, it would be a waste.
Many people suffer from the guilt of having someone close to them tell them that they’ve changed or that they’re no longer the same person they once knew. But people who refuse to see change as positive, who want you to fit into the little mould they made for you when they first met you, are not worth the shrinkage.
You might be so frustrated that the individuals you loved and felt the closest to a year and a half ago—or even as recently as a month ago—are making you want to rip out your hair. This is natural. At university, you learn so many new things and gain so many new perspectives as you are constantly fed this influx of information. Whether it’s a lecture that changes your perspective on world events or a night out that ends with three people you just met in your kitchen and a pounding headache, there is always something happening. You are constantly experiencing things that are meant to change you and your worldview.
You might realise that your lover may just be in love with the person they met, not the person you’re becoming. Their loss. Things are supposed to change. We are so afraid of ageing and being confronted with how transitory our lives and identities are that the very idea of having a new view or meeting a new person can be world-shaking.
You are allowed to be a different person than you were at age 17. Time is meant to change you. Most people have that stuffed animal from their childhood that looks completely different and a little tattered. It’s changed with time and lived a million different lives as it’s starred in all your childhood stories. It may be a little worse for wear; some holes and stuffing are coming out, and a limb or two are loose. It’s been loved so much that it shows. I hope by the end of university, your left ear is hanging off a little looser, too.