The Same Thing I Wrote About in High School

(aka I haven’t blogged in two years and this was a struggle)

The last time I thought about a lot of the things I write (which was a really long time ago, because lol I never write any more), I realized they all tend to have the same structure: a story from when I was a little kid, an analysis of how I see the world differently now that I’m not a little kid, and some kind of pithy-for-a-high-school-senior-I-guess conclusion.

Yeah, let’s do that again.

Because the thing is, it’s not a surprise that I see the world differently now; I haven’t been a really little kid for over a decade now, and a decade is half of my life so far. And if there’s one thing time can be unfailingly trusted to do, it’s to bring about change. So while it makes sense that I might romanticize the way that I saw the world when I was someone else entirely–nostalgia is real, okay?–the inescapable truth is that every day, I will change just a little.

We fear the dark because we cannot see. If we cannot see, we cannot know what we are facing. And in the same way, this future of change before me is uncertain. At the core of it all should be the most central parts of my identity, and I want very badly to believe that these anchors of personality do indeed exist, constant despite age or hometown or career. But the truth is that I don’t know–and this uncertainty is (and has been, for as long as I can remember) the only thing about myself that I believe in for sure.

In middle school, I read a poem by Rudyard Kipling–“If.” It’s specifically intended as a model for guys to pursue, but apparently my reading comprehension skills didn’t pick that up, and so in sixth grade, this was who I wanted to be:

“…If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
[…]
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Okay yeah, I’m not really sure how I missed that last line. To be honest, I might’ve just ignored it, because as far as I’m concerned, this poem is about how to be a good person (which is a critical part of being a good man anyways). The concept of “grit” (of sticking with it, whatever it may be, until it’s finished) is not a new one; perseverance has been valued since the before people wrote words and essays and poems about it, because since when has doing anything worthwhile ever been easy? But there is a pride and independence in the kind of personhood that this poem describes that deeply appealed to my eleven-year-old self, perhaps because at eleven there is very little that is certain. If I can rely on myself, though, there is no need for the things around me to be certain; only me. And even if I continue to change–to become someone just a little bit different every day–I know that I am me, even if I might sometimes be unsure of who that really is.

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One thought on “The Same Thing I Wrote About in High School

  1. The teacher in me is drawn to the word “grit,” because it’s one of our big Common Core buzzwords. The idea, like you said, is basically a cool way of saying perseverance, but I think if we dig in, the whole concept of grit is paradoxical. One concept of grit is to be able to persevere in spite of your circumstances. And you’re right – a strong sense of identity is key when the world around you is so unpredictable. You need to be able to rely on yourself. But on the other hand, how much do we lose when we remain fixed in our worldviews? Who has more grit, the kid who does the problem his way until it works, or the kid who adapts to fit the situation and thinks outside of the box?

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