It dawned on me as I was imprisoned in the dank gray room, forced to stay still in the orange plastic chair, that this was not what I believed in. I was sick of eating the greasy Dominos pizzas every week and the monotonous tone of my teacher; this had to end now. The next week I dropped out of Hebrew school and hired a private tutor to prepare me for my bar-mitzvah, a tradition that I actually believed in. I realized the world around me is filled with images of the ideal person, values that I should adopt, and goals that should be mine. In Hebrew school I was told to be a model Jewish citizen and follow Jewish systems of value, though in the end I decided to pick and choose those important to me. People should be themselves and do what makes them happy, this I believe.
I believe that a major contributor to sadness is venturing away from who you really are in order to be what people want you be. The worst thing is the pressure to be the same as those around you. Have your parents’ friends ever asked you what you’re going to be when you grow up and then cut you off before you begin and ask if you’re going to be like your parents? The influence of others can be overpowering and cause us to have a distorted image of ourselves, this is all done in order to be liked by others. This I believe.
I realized the first step to not distorting the image of myself was to figure out who I am as a person. Throughout my childhood it has been a constant battle between my parents and I for independence, for its through independence, in my opinion, that you find out who you really are. When you are out on a long bike ride or playing football with lifelong friends on a lazy sunny day, this is where who you truly are is most visible. It is through experience that we understand ourselves. It is experiences that allow us to test our character, being faced with a difficult moral dilemma, slit second impulse decisions, or even how you take responsibility for your actions. It is during events likes this and your behavior throughout that you begin to understand yourself.
I came to understand, as I sat in a dark basement that smelled of stale Cheetos (my hands sore from 2 hours of playing Halo), that I had to do what made me happy. Sitting for hours on an uncomfortable green couch with a sweaty controller in my hand doesn’t make me happy. I enjoy being out and doing things, but not sitting with your eyes glued to a TV and gunshots ringing in your head. I now recognize that it is when you have established yourself in the world as who you really are, distorted images aside, that you can be happy with yourself and others. I came to understand that it is when others approval is no longer important in order to be myself that I finally became an individual. It was becoming an individual that lead me to happiness. I obtained the ability to make decisions for myself and make my own happiness.
Some call this process of becoming an individual growing up, though it isn’t actually growing up as much as it is finding out who you are and knowing you don’t have to change yourself in order to be liked. Once you know who you are and what you as an individual value it is then that you have the correct tools for happiness, whether you use them or not, that is up to you. This I Believe.
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