This I Believe

Noel - New York, New York
Entered on May 19, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe my life is a gift. I believe most of what I am, even my personality, is due in large part not to decisions I have made, but what has been given to me in life.

One day I awoke a conscious human being: my individual self, my consciousness, did not decide what type of body I would be given in life. And indeed, my body alone is a vital determinant of my person: my brain was not born a blank slate, but a group of neurons defined by gene sequences and the environment in which those neurons developed. Such conditions gave my mind certain advantages and disadvantages over others.

The brain becomes our personality, our abilities, and our memories. These components of ourselves are tools for our use — they do not wholly define us, as I believe in God and the soul, but they define everything that we are visibly to others. Our brains can be born flawed, become sick, or be taken away. I was lucky I was given a healthy mind that, for the most part, worked well, and still does.

I didn’t decide what family I would be born to. I was given parents and grandparents who devoted themselves to me and had a strong desire to see that I became a compassionate person and that I fulfilled all my potential.

I didn’t dictate what neighborhood I would be raised in, or what nation I would be a citizen of. Nor did I determine what events would occur in my life that would teach me invaluable lessons not learned by any other means.

These resources and circumstances, among many others, have been presented to me — I did nothing to earn them. They are gifts, and have determined who I was, who I am, and who I will be. Where then, does my self-responsibility come into play? What in this world and my life is a direct result of my conscious will?

I believe the answer to this question resides in how I proceed to use the tools and gifts given to me in life: whether I serve a purpose greater than my own personal gain, bask in self-indulgence, or complain that I haven’t been given enough. But how I carry out these actions, too, is influenced by what I have been taught in life. Such interdependence can leave the boundary of responsibility unclear, especially when concerning other people not part of my own consciousness: I cannot know what tools, knowledge, or states of mind have been given to anyone else. I only know at minimum what has been given to me, and what I am capable of. Therefore, I must be slow to judge others, and slow to take full credit for what I accomplish.

At least two things in my life are certain: If I take my gifts for granted and do not seek my full potential, I will waste my gifts. And if I use my gifts for my own self-gratification, their worth will die with me when they are inevitably taken away.

Perhaps knowing those last two things are among the greatest of the gifts I’ve been given — they are what guide me on a daily basis. They are the reasons I work hard both in my relationships with other people and in my academics. Only through my relationships and my work can I ever hope to share my gifts with anyone else, and only by sharing my gifts can I be sure that those gifts will not die when I do.