When I was a kid, I’d always hear of characters in books or on TV “finding themselves” or trying to “find out who they are.” I never really understood that—how do you not know who you are? You’re you, day in and day out, whether you like it or not. Every day, everything you do is quintessentially “you.” At school, your classmates and teachers know who you are, you have your friends and your enemies on the playground and you seem to have a pretty good grasp of how people perceive you. You didn’t question or even give a second thought to most of your actions or decisions; you just lived them.
What I didn’t realize is that when you’re a kid you don’t think about or overanalyze hardly anything—you honestly don’t know how to be anyone but yourself. You lack the ability to perceive and interpret social cues, leaving you uninhibited and blunt. You truly don’t care what others think because you almost don’t know how to.
Then we hit 6th or 7th grade and shit gets weird. Everything we do and every decision we make seem to be wrong or complicated. All of a sudden, we find ourselves trying to fit into a group, a style, a locker…anything. Why do we lose our self-assuredness, of knowing who we are?
There have been multiple times throughout my life where I felt a little lost in this department and times of triumph where I felt confident and sure of myself. By the end of high school, though, I thought I had it figured out. Then college and subsequently college graduation hit, and part of my 23-year-old self feels like the confused seventh grader again who’s on a quest of self-discovery. Curiously, there are some similarities between these two phases of life. Great.
1. Generally, you’re in a transitional time.
In middle school it may be with your body and your hormones, but in your early to mid-twenties, it’s with real life. You may not know where you’re going to live in a week depending on your job situation. You’re trying to buy a car, define your goals and get yourself to where you want to be in ten years. Everything you’ve ever dreamed of wanting your whole life comes down to right now. You’ve always wanted to live in California or North Carolina and now is the time to make it happen. And it’s scary.
2. It’s a time of new friendships and a new environment.
In middle school, you’re exploring uncharted territory—not only in a new school with new people, but also with the opposite sex. Things seem uncomfortable and weird on a daily basis. You’re afraid to talk to members of the opposite sex and you have no idea how to use a locker combination. Now, you’re battling those same woes, whether you’re trying to convert your partying, stay-up-till-3-in-the-morning self into an actual professional human being who wears pants, or you’re trying to make friends in a new city where you know no one.
3. Sh*t’s awkward.
Plain and simple. Middle school is a notorious awkward time for everybody—you now have acne, your mom won’t let you wear a thong, you really want to make out with someone and everything is utterly mortifying. Now, everything is weird again, but for reasons that are actually significant. Your friends are in all different parts of the country, you’re convinced you’re not getting married until you’re 45, you don’t know how to go to the bar and not take five consecutive shots upon arrival like a normal person and you’re living in your middle school bedroom. Awesome.
As with the awkwardness and absurdity of middle school, I’m confident this phase will pass. It’s only a matter of time before your shitty job turns into one you actually enjoy, you manage to integrate yourself into a new community and you actually feel like an adult instead of a fledgling in-betweener. Thank God.