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Be Yourself

“What is the point of being on this Earth if you are going to be like everyone else?” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

We’re all unique, yet so much of our time is dedicated to fitting in with the pack. We instinctively know the pack helps us survive, but we often chafe at the limitations of it. This is the ongoing dilemma of humanity: to be yourself or to be a part of things. As with everything, balance is the key.

Still the call of the wild persists. We can be so much more than the average (and who wants to be average?) if we just push the boundaries a bit more. To test not just our limits, but the limits of the social construct we’ve immersed ourselves in. Yet we can never ignore the power of family and friends to pull us back in, for the better or worse, depending on the box we reside in. To believe that it doesn’t influence how far we go is delusional. The trick is to find creative ways to step out of that box. When that doesn’t work, immersing ourselves in a new social construct offers the freedom we require.

My daughter has a friend who moved from another country to go to college in the United States. While attending college, that person decided to transition from a he to a she. In their home country they’d be murdered for such audacity as being gay, let alone transitioning. In this new social construct, she’s building a life for herself in the relative safety of California. If I got any pronouns wrong there, forgive me, for I came from a social construct that is still trying to sort it all out in our own heads. That’s not a form of resistance, that’s simply trying to learn the new game. Akin to an American watching a cricket game and trying to figure it all out.

The point is, just be yourself, whatever that is for you. Most of us will catch up eventually. The world doesn’t turn on a dime, after all. There’s a lot of momentum forcing us to stay in line. People get spun up easily over change, and the fervor from the familiar voices (family, friends, church and state) can be compelling for people who otherwise might be more open to acceptance. Most people just want to believe the same stories they were brought up with are true. To hear otherwise is to challenge the core of who we are. Knowing this, we ought to tread lightly on their identities. Change can be hard for everyone.

Just as we work to change ourselves incrementally with good habits, systems and routines, so it is with the world we live in. Steady progress wins in the end. We become what we consistently work towards becoming. Go be yourself. I’ll do the same. Let’s meet somewhere in the middle.

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