From Grade 1 through Grade 12, I went to the same school. I had the same friends I made on the first day of school as I did on the last day of my high school graduation. In those years of school, I played on the same sports teams, volleyball and field hockey, and was usually playing in the same position on those teams every year I returned to them. I wore the same uniform every day, I had good grades, was amongst the top of most of my classes, and was close with many of my teachers. That is to say, my entire identity was pretty fixed throughout my pre-university days. I knew myself to be this bubbly, happy-go-lucky, talkative, predictable person that I always was.
Once I came to university though, I found I had to leave a lot of that ‘me’ behind. Most of the things I used as crutches to define myself were now in a completely different province and in a phase of my life that I couldn’t return to. I didn’t have familiar faces or relationships reminding me of the ‘me’ who I thought I was around me. Suddenly I felt very lost. I had what felt like this huge identity crisis - I was becoming more withdrawn and wasn’t as outgoing, I wasn’t getting the same grades I did in high school, relationships were harder to make and maintain, you name it. I tried my hardest to continue being the person I always knew myself to be prior to university, but that only added more stress to my life. Things that I used to enjoy or remind me of who I was, either wasn’t an option to do anymore, or I didn’t enjoy them anymore! I was worried that if I changed, I wouldn’t recognize myself or that people at home would be confused if I became a different person; perhaps even like me less if I wasn’t the Lily they knew and liked.
Now that I am in my third year of university, a lot of my qualms about who I am and who I feel I need to be have settled. What felt like one of the greater challenges in my life, I now realize with hindsight, was actually a blessing in disguise. I’ve recreated a new me that I am pretty proud of! I no longer play volleyball and field hockey, but I’ve grown to love yoga and the occasional (*heavy emphasis on occasional*) fitness class with friends. I still keep in contact with a few of my best friends from school, but I’ve also let myself create some of the most beautiful and fulfilling relationships of my life while I’ve been here at university. I no longer am at the top of my classes like I was in high school, but I’m loving what I’m studying now more than I ever have before. Instead of wearing the same thing every day, I wear clothes and try different styles that make me happy. I’ve become more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I’m more comfortable setting boundaries and speaking up for myself. In lots of ways, I still am the person that I was growing up, but a lot has changed. Who I am now was not the person I was in high school, and I am no longer upset about that. Many of these miniature successes I wouldn’t have discovered if I felt I had to stick to being the same person I always was.
Here’s what I’ve discovered. Interpret this however you need to and however it comes to you, but let go of who you feel you need to be. You don’t need to be the same person you were in order to continue ‘being yourself’. Who you are and who you understand yourself to be is not and should not be a linear road nor a solid destination - it is supposed to be a journey, and can be an exciting and unpredictable one if you let it be! At the risk of sounding preachy, if there is anything I can pass on to anyone reading this, it’s to not stick to any one particular identity. Meet yourself wherever you are, and ‘who you are’ or ‘who you are meant to be’ will find you. Do what holds excites you, and you will find yourself becoming a version of yourself that you really like, at least that’s what I’ve found! Sometimes feeling like you aren’t the same as you once were is a blessing. By letting myself abandon the ‘me’ I thought I was, I was able to uncover many things about myself. We put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves to keep being what people expect of us - especially what we expect of our own selves. Allow yourself to be the incredibly complex, ever-changing person you are meant to be!