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On Reinvention

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Like most quarter-life-crisis-undergoing college students, I often wonder what it’s like on the other side. Not necessarily in the idiomatic sense, although the philosophy course I’m taking has led me to numerous conversations about the afterlife, but the other side of this chapter in life. What will become of me when these four years come to an end? How will I be different?

We go into college knowing it can change us. At least I did. As trite as it sounds, college grants us with a clean slate. It’s a place where you can pursue anything, travel anywhere, meet anyone, be anyone. And so we chase new feelings, we dive into new experiences, and we push ourselves to venture beyond the familiar. We tell ourselves the old Taylor can’t come to the phone anymore. She’s dead.

Yet, as I’ve realized after my first year of college, while we have the freedom to become whoever we want to be, there are limitations to how much we can will ourselves to change. I approached Emory as an eager freshman, inspired by the excitement of unbridled possibility. I signed up for way too many clubs and events, some of which – without going into specifics – were far out of my comfort zone. But over the year, as I settled into a college routine, I abandoned these new adventures and fell back on habits I was familiar with.

Last summer, I was at a reunion of sorts for an organization I used to be a part of. We’re all from different parts of California, so for many of us, it was the first time we saw each other since graduation. Individually, we may have changed a lot: new clothes, new hair, new hobbies. But when we all came together, it felt like nothing has changed. Despite any attempts to start anew, parts of our old personalities remained.

I do not argue that humans are stagnant. As we stumble through our college careers, we are constantly learning and becoming better versions of ourselves. I may not have branched out as much as I thought I would, but I still feel like a different person than when I first arrived at college. I’ve developed a better sense of self-compassion, became more independent, and am much more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Only a certain amount of that change, though, is due to my own initiative; the rest, I think, is part of growing up.

So go ahead. Sign up for the intramural volleyball tournament. Audition for the fall play. Take that scuba diving trip you’re secretly terrified about but know will make a cool story to tell your friends back home. College is the perfect place to reinvent yourself, if that’s what you want to do. However, recognize that there are limits, that who we become may not necessarily be a product of our own choices. We can make a conscious decision to shed ourselves of our past, but ultimately it is our experiences that shape us into who we become.

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The student news site of Oxford College of Emory University
On Reinvention