This I Believe

Jessica - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on December 22, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

“You’re breathing too loudly.”


As civilization has evolved, we have developed one “right” way to tie our shoes, one “right” way to hold our pencils, to walk, to talk, eat, express emotion, handle problems, even breathe. As we have drawn these lines, shaped these taboos, and carved these standards for the ideal being, we have slowly corroded the loose boundaries of a “good person” into the ultra-sharp carbon-copy mold of a high-rising, rich, successful, impeccable… machine.

What we are really doing is enslaving our minds, shackling our hopes and dreams, our creativity and spirit, to the stark cement blocks of what others would admire. Not ourselves. Why? Admittedly, the idea of not matching up exactly with this blueprint to perfection in the minds of others–this petrifies most of us. All we want is acceptance, approval.

I believe this: Do it for yourself, not for anyone else.

Last summer I attended a ten-day Forum intended for young aspiring doctors. Immersed in a student body of roughly 450 kids between the ages of 16 and 18, I attended lectures, discussions, and visited hospitals, theme parks, and malls. As I conversed with this diverse array of individuals, I began to realize how sheltered I was from the rest of the world.

Things that I learned at Med Camp included

Firstly, that I was abnormal for being able to survive for ten days with only four pairs of shoes. Previously, it had never occurred to me that someone would bring twelve pairs of shoes to a ten-day camp, “just in case” of different scenarios playing out, as my roommate did.

Secondly, that my old Puma messenger bag was an unacceptable way to carry a notebook across campus. Previously, it had never occurred to me that a girl would buy a several hundred dollar Gucci tote to lug around her notebooks, and openly compare prices with her fellow Camp attendees, as was common in my circle of friends.

Thirdly, that you could “lose your ‘Blue Box’ Virginity” by buying your first piece of notoriously expensive Tiffany’s jewelry. Previously, it had never occurred to me that a fifteen-year-old would buy herself $150 earrings just for the blue box that they came in, and then take pictures of herself holding the parcel in order to broadcast her big moment through Facebook photo albums.

Were these Med Camp kids interested in medicine? Maybe, maybe not. It didn’t matter much in the end, as my camp experience didn’t end up having much to do with medicine. For me it became more about surviving in a world where everything you wore, everything you bought, or said, or ate, became who you were, and directly secured your value to the people around you.

I don’t think that I could buy my happiness in a Blue Box. If that’s where your hopes and dreams take you, by all means go ahead. But then if you do, don’t worry about showing that box to me; in my opinion, all you’ll ever have is an empty box.