Monday Musings....You'll Find Yourself Somewhere, Somehow

When I left for my trip to New Zealand, I told my students that one of the things I was most looking forward to was finding out who I would be sitting next to on the plane. Strangers forced together by chance, or was it? Haley and Piya were my seat mates as we travelled from Detroit to San Francisco. A high school teacher and a grade 12 student! It doesn't get any better than that! I'm so glad I got to 'collide' (see last week's blog) with them both. Haley, it was such a privilege to listen to your passion and process of self discovery. Thank you for sharing these brilliant words below with me, and now the world. I wish you all the best as you launch into independence at Bard College in the Fall!

I like to think of myself as a garden sown with many different seeds that sprout after times of uncertainty. These moments of change encourage me to look more closely at myself. Through this process of self-reflection, I am able to dig down and discover my authentic self. Questioning the unfamiliar, I begin to see myself and the world around me in a new light, like the freshness created after a rainfall. Last summer, such a time came for me while in nature; I looked within and challenged myself to reflect on the impact of overcoming my fear of expressing my opinion.

Ever since I was little, I have struggled with articulating my thoughts. Most of my close friends have been very outspoken and strongly opinionated. I used to agree with a friend's statement, and then agree with the next comment someone made – even if they completely contradicted each other. Afraid of being wrong, I kept my opinions to myself and my courage to express my own perspective weakened. Distinguishing my thoughts from those of the people around me was challenging, and I strove to find my own voice. I did not feel like an individual, I could not find anything unique about me. I became tired of being characterized only as “the pretty one”; I wanted to show my friends the true me, but I felt stuck. My sense of personal identity was lost in the abyss of my habit to conform to others around me. I was being pulled in so many directions, I could not find a clear one to follow that aligned with who I was.

So I sought answers within and I became aware that much of my struggle stemmed from my fear of expressing my opinions. I realized that I needed to challenge my fear by pushing beyond my comfort zone and expressing my thoughts, regardless of whether or not they aligned with those around me. This realization awakened a newfound sense of self, as I grew more comfortable with my own voice.

During a summer backpacking trip to Yosemite, I was given the task of leading my peers for a day. This chance to be a leader provided fuel for the fire of self expression that was beginning to burn within me, and brought me a step further along my quest to build upon my newly discovered identity. The day I was chosen to lead, we had the longest distance to cover, two people had injured ankles, and everyone was grumpy. Throughout the day I spent time checking on each person; afterwards their attitude towards me changed. The whole group seemed to feel lighter. People were beginning to respect and listen to me as their leader. Somehow it felt very natural to me and I discovered a new piece of myself. I began to carry myself in a new way and the world around me felt brighter. Discovering this new strength filled me with courage and excitement. An intense desire grew within me to share my voice with the world and further develop my ability to lead and express my individuality. The more I used my voice, the more I spoke, and the more complete I felt as a person. I finally felt like a unique individual. I started believing myself and I could sense the beginning of finding my place in the world. This filled me with a surge of energy and I felt more empowered than ever. A seed had finally sprouted through the soil of uncertainty as my newfound sense of identity and love of being myself blossomed.

One of Haley's favourite songs is Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson. I'd have to say the tune and playful lyrics fit her well :)

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