“So, what do you want to be?”
Before even entering university many of us are plagued with this question from well-meaning family and/or friends. But most of us don’t have an answer. And, even after entering university most of us still don’t have a definitive answer. Interestingly, even ROSI wanted to know about my future plans during my subject Post enrollment! The reality is that a lot of students go through their undergraduate studies completely clueless about what they want to be.
In reflecting upon the myriad important lessons my student career has taught me, I have discovered that the answer to this question is simply: “I want to be me.” I want to be authentic. So no matter what job or profession I might choose to pursue, most importantly, I want to be myself.
So what does it mean to be authentic? To be authentic, in terms of existentialist philosophy, means to be true to your own personality and character despite external pressures1. This is important because it affects happiness2. So if one is not being true to themselves, likely they are not as happy as they could be. For example, I have met students who are miserable and struggling with their studies because they are studying what their parents want them to and not necessarily what they are passionate about.
Authenticity is also important because it gives life meaning and purpose3. When you are passionate about what you study, midterms and assignments are viewed as stepping-stones to a longer term goal and not just something to be endured.
We are always evolving and university is a particularly unique time in our lives to discover new things about ourselves and to help us define who we are or who we want to become. It is the perfect place to examine and/or recreate oneself. It is a time and place that allows for a variety of growth opportunities, whether socially, intellectually or emotionally. For me, I found participating in various university events where I met new people (many with interesting and different perspectives from mine), helped me to understand myself better and to develop my own views. I also learned new skills that eventually become full-blown hobbies.
Being authentic is a choice we can all make4 Although in some situations it can sometimes feel uncomfortable. For example, I’ve been teased for being a hermit when I’ve turned down party invitations in order to stay in and study.
The next time someone asks you “what do you want to be?” tell them who you really are, and what you are passionate about. Choose to be authentic.
To further explore your self and authenticity through writing, consider participating in the Poet in Community: Am I? Identity and Change event taking place on November 5th. No special writing experience necessary. Click for more details.
I’d love to hear your “authentic” stories.