Friday, November 8, 2013

Teen Guest Post: WHO AM I? by Isabel Randolph

As promised here, I'm hosting a guest blog series called WHO AM I? and have invited teen writers to contribute.  

And a shout out to my artistic teen neighbor Courtney Berger for designing the awesome banner.


Who Am I?
by Isabel Randolph, guest blogger

If I wanted to be cutesy and cheesy and baseline poetic, I would say that I am a liberal artist, integrating aspects of the liberal arts education into every part of my life. However, the thought of being so cloyingly cute, and particularly the thought of being so cloyingly cute in poetry, makes me cringe a little bit, so I guess we can call that answer number one to the question ‘Who am I?’.

Let’s cover the facts; I’m a student in my second year at a small, private liberal arts university where I’m studying everything, though specifically English, economics, and various foreign languages, along with leading the fencing club, volunteering, working, and continually looking for new experiences. By May next year, I’ll be halfway done with my undergraduate experience, and I’ll be 20 years old, and the more I think about it the more terrifying that thought becomes. That’s two decades of time spent rotating the sun... I feel old! And young. And sometimes stuck in between.

Ignoring any quarter life-crises, I’m happier to be riding out the end of my teenage years than I was when thoroughly entrenched in them, a sentiment I semi-assume most people would adhere to. Like Jane mentioned in her post for this series, it’s so easy to get caught up in the social standards, especially in a setting like high school where it seems as if everyone has been together for ages, and because you spend so much time together just as you’re learning to define yourself, you also start to define each other. Like, I’m pretty sure I’ll always have a reminiscent affection for My Chemical Romance thanks to a best friend in middle school, and I know at least some of my drive to do really well academically was kick-started by a boyfriend in high school.

And sure, maybe those fun character-quirks would have happened anyway-- it’s possible. However, I’m inclined to think they’re much more attributes to relationships I’ve had, and, to be honest, I think that’s something that’ll happen no matter when or where you are. I could throw out examples now even to prove that that kind of influence doesn’t stop at high school graduation (hello, new found interest in Arabic and working knowledge of Twitter).

More than influences on each other, though, I think the pressure that creates that ‘trap’ feeling in high school comes from others’ expectations of you, and your reputation, and how ‘this is how you’ve been for the past five years, so obviously this is how you’ll still be, and always.’ It was that image that I remember feeling most caught in, and while I did change and grow some, probably along with the same ways everyone else was growing, it took graduating and effectively moving out of the bubble to truly get away from those expectations.

Yeah, it’s a cliche, and I’m trying to not veer back into cutesy, cheesy waters, but getting a new start was what I needed to really tackle the ‘who am I?’ question. One could argue that that’s a question with no answer, or no definite answer, anyway, but with the authority of a 19 year old who really doesn’t have a whole lot figured out (authority? what authority?), I’m going to say that I have a better answer now than I did before, which brings us to... now.

I so tongue-in-cheekily threw out the expression ‘liberal artist’ because, while I’m probably not going to stick it on a business card or resume anytime soon, it does convey probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself: that when it comes to learning, I don’t want my liberal arts education to stop outside of the classroom. We’re taught on these ethical pillars, the idea that a well-rounded, well-informed student becomes an autonomous thinker and problem solver, and overall has a better understanding of the world, and that ties right into my goals because, the million dollar question, who am I?

I’m ambitious, and overachieving, and I’ve always had a little bit of an issue with teetering on that line between maximizing output and taking on just a little bit too much. I don’t know if it comes from a fast-paced society propelled by technology and instant gratification or my impending entry into a third decade on this planet (and I thought two decades sounded crazy...), an ambitious friend from high school or just the lingering aftereffects of so many jokes about the world’s apocalyptic doom the year I graduated, but I do have this sense that I have a lot of ground to cover, the sooner the better. Multitasking, getting experience in different areas, attempting to cultivate different interests; it all feels like stock ingredients that are slowly adding more facets and experiences and stories to my life.

Who am I? I’m over-caffeinated, slightly neurotic, and really, really stressed. I’m also excited, and impatient, and working on adding confident to the list.

That being said, last weekend was the first time in almost five months that I got to go home for more than 24 hours, and did I have internship work I should have been doing? Miles I should have been running? Blog posts and scholarship applications I should have been writing? Sure, yes, definitely. Did I blow off the vast majority of those responsibilities to see my best friends, shuttle my brothers around town, and go out with my parents? Yes, yes, yes. Did my entire potential future collapse before my eyes in a metaphoric pile of ‘coulda shoulda woulda?’ Negative. Finding that balance in priorities is the next big thing I have to tackle.

I’m grateful, to be lucky enough to get to go to a fancy school with a solid scholarship, to have parents and family and friends who love me and support me, even to have the abilities to run and go out and occasionally eat way too many cookies without serious repercussions. I do feel the pressure of those opportunities, though, and that’s just part of the equation, I guess. I’m lucky and crazy and hopeful and intelligent and hoping that didn’t sound self-centered and stressed out and overwhelmed, but mostly I’m young, and it’ll be okay, and I’ve got time.

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