Sunday night I was driving back from buying a used piece of Ikea furniture from a sketchy man on Craigslist who wore a backpack and asked us to meet him in a strange alley at 9:00 night. The whole transaction had me on edge though Jordan (the boy) explained I was really only creeped out because the whole process had taken place at night, a valid argument, how much scarier do ordinary actions appear in the dark? As I allowed myself to relax once again Jordan and I began discussing feeling lost. Neither of us feel lost currently but I believe feeling “lost” is a pretty universal rite of passage growing up. Questioning who you are and what you want to become is a critical step in identity formation. Jordan described his feelings of lostness and the path it took him on and I compared it to my own journey. I don’t like to speak specifically about the experiences of other people in this space however I will say Jordan and I have dramatically different backgrounds. His feelings of lostness, emptiness and solitude pulled him one direction while those same feelings pulled me somewhere completely different. The wheels in my mind started turning and I sputtered “our feelings are ultimately universal but our environments cultivate the way we will react to those feelings“. I didn’t know quite what I was theorizing but as I spoke my thoughts started fusing together and I could no longer “undo” the connection I had just discovered.
Isn’t it scary how little control we seemingly have over who we become? I remember enrolling in a sociology course my freshman year of college and staring wide eyed at the professor each lecture as she demonstrated how much of who we are is relatively set and predetermined due to our socioeconomic status. I remember feeling both frustrated and relieved as if the world had played some huge trick on me by proposing I could be anything I wanted to be and suddenly recognizing that more often than not hard work isn’t the only factor in success. I would never suggest ditching your dreams of working as an actress no matter how far fetched the reality of it may appear. I would never imply we shouldn’t hustle to achieve our goals, whatever they may be but I also won’t ignore the sociological facts. We aren’t whatever and whoever we want to be. We are products of our environments and societies. We live by a set of norms that determine our boundaries and morals. And two people experiencing the same feelings of sadness or lostness in drastically different situations (or even just moderately different situations) may make extremely different life choices!
So what say do we have in who we become and how do we claim as much power over that person as possible? I’m a firm believer that we gain a large portion of control over our “fate” by surrounding ourselves with people we want to be like! If you want to be kind and wholesome and sweet surround yourself with friends who volunteer and give back to the community and send random love letters. If you wanted to be fit and eat healthy you wouldn’t go out of your way to befriend McDonalds connoisseurs but rather people who take Sunday hikes and train for marathons. It isn’t to say that you can’t hangout with a gang without becoming a gangster (you certainly can) but the behavior you’re immersed in irrevocably becomes your version of normal. If all your friends kidnap puppies and steal convertibles eventually the behavior won’t shock you anymore and even if you never conform to kidnapping puppies and hijacking convertibles your mind frame will change. You might not jump off the bridge just because everyone is doing it but that doesn’t mean you won’t come to view jumping off the bridge as the norm. Though it’s difficult to control our environments exactly I think it is so crucial to choose our friends wisely. I believe in accepting and loving as many people as I can but I see now why my parents were so protective when I was in junior high and high school. We are the products of the people we spend time with! There are bound to be instances I will feel lost or sad or hopeless-those feelings are universal. However I believe it is preemptively in my best interest to surround myself with people I view as genuinely good. I couldn’t care less if my friends dress like me, look like me or talk like me but they must be good (to the core) so when I am lost I am elevated to be good too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my Sunday night pondering!