As a child growing up, I made one of the most influential decisions of my life solely based on other people’s opinion. In Jamaica, every sixth grade student was required to take the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) to determine which high school they attended. I wanted to impress everyone by going to an extremely prestigious school so I set my eyes upon Munro College. The only problem was that it was not a decision that was made in my best interest but rather from the need to impress other individuals. Now while Munro College was a phenomenal and great learning experience, it just simply was not for me. It was a new environment but my bad habit of always trying to impress others continued. Eventually, I started to embody societal norms because I craved a sense of belonging.
As the years dragged on and I began to reflect on this experience, a bigger question of personal identity emerged. I started to question if I was who I wanted to be or if I was who society wanted to me. I started to question if I was living my life the way I wanted to live it or if I was living it the way society wanted me to live it. I also started to search for the moment in my life when I never had to ask myself these questions. I began to desire my childhood memories in which these questions were not a necessity. But alas, those memories are beyond remembrance.
Currently, I am a 19-year-old college student who is of a darker complexion than most and who is also tall with average physical attributes. Now the most common societal expectations that are shoved onto me because of this description are that I should play basketball & football or that I should be a womanizer or that I should be a thug. The previous version of myself that was described in the opening paragraph would have sought to fulfill these expectations but the person who I am now has no interest in these expectations. I have learned throughout my short life that one of the most important things in life is to be comfortable with yourself. So many individuals go to extreme lengths to please others but are unhappy with themselves at the end of the day and so many individuals regret it later on in life.
I was once like this but I eventually realized that I only have one life to live. I realized that it is pointless to live a life of servitude to societal norms and that I should I live a life that I am comfortable with. A life in which I am make decisions based on personal interests instead of public ones. Although such a goal can be difficult because of the tremendous amount of pressure to adhere to societal expectations, it is still feasible. It is possible to find one’s self beneath the mold that society places on individuals. The mind is a powerful instrument and it can do whatever it truly aspires to so to borrow a famous catchphrase from Nike, “Just Do It!”
– Ainsworth H.