To the Class of 2017: Take up space
You can feel when someone grows into their identity, or fills out into who they are to become. I think developing your identity is like a child trying on a too-large coat. At first, it hangs baggy, but gradually–year after year–it fits like a glove. At least, that’s the hope.
I have been an intern for a sophomore English class this past year, and I can see that my students are still struggling to grow into themselves, still stumbling to fill out and emerge from the chrysalises they have been born into. But, looking at seniors, I don’t see that. Around me, I see individuals of power and potential, and I urge you to keep this alive. Now, none of us has fully grown into our ‘coats’, if you will, but we’re well on our way, and we are charged to make this our life’s mission. It has only been during this past year that I have felt I have begun to grow into myself–finally.
Recently, I realized that I always dressed to appear skinny, rather than dressing to appear like myself. This is a simple revelation. I’m sure others have had the same thought. It’s not original or groundbreaking (unfortunately), but, for me, it’s been profound. Because, the thing is, I realized I did this metaphorically as well. In classes, I would keep quiet. In conversations, I would censor my words for fear of appearing too…too passionate, too weird…just too much. I would try to shrink myself down to the size of a teaspoon. Make myself bite size and boring. I would ‘trim the fat’ that I thought everyone else would be disgusted by. By doing this, I shrunk myself and made growth, true growth of identity, impossibly unattainable. I denied myself the joy of self-discovery for so long.
But now, I am done wasting my time. I am done beating myself up over trying to appear to be more manageable. I am done living a thin and starved existence and letting my coat hang loose. I am done choosing deprivation over fullness and letting my potential remain dusty and untouched.
And this is what I hope for you as well.
So here’s my advice: Take up space. Take up an outrageous amount of space that people balk at how it’s even possible that such a being is human. Become a force to be reckoned with. Prove people wrong. Make mistakes. Change your hair. Hug. Give random compliments to random people. Read. Travel to exotic places. Travel just to the fridge, if it’s that kind of a day. Don’t cheat yourself out of what could be. Don’t waste your time. Do all these things, do none of these things…
But above all else…live a full life.