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Following your own beat

As yet another semester ends, many on this campus are faced with the prospect of imminent graduation, especially if they are graduating at the end of the semester. Others are freshmen who may be finding out that college is different than anything that they have ever experienced.

If you are nearing graduation and entry into the so called “real world,” you are probably looking forward to entering a new chapter in your life. You are also probably a bit nervous. You may be asking, “How will I fit in?” as you come to the realization that you will be starting at the bottom of the pile once again.

If you are a freshman who has just nearly survived your first full semester in college, you are probably figuring out what kind of people you like to call your friends. You are starting to realize who you are and what you want to do with your life.

If you feel you are having an identity crisis, don’t worry, it’s normal. What you will eventually realize is that you have to follow your own path.

To illustrate this point, I want to share a story with you about a man I know. This man eventually learned to follow his own drumbeat, and he is better off today because of it.

This guy I know was a very quiet guy when he was younger. Teachers would tell his parents that he was “quiet as a church mouse.” He was a bit of a slow learner and had a small circle of friends, and wasn’t very sure of himself and could come off as lazy at times.

In middle school, this guy started to hang out with a group of adventurous friends. He followed this group of friends until they had a falling out part way through high school.

That’s when I noticed a change in this man. He started to think for himself. He began to accomplish some things that a few years before he would have been too shy to attempt.

However, he had some bad luck towards the end of high school and he proceeded to walk around with a chip on his shoulder. At this point, sports were his life, and he felt disowned by his self-perceived identity.

This is when he changed yet again and learned this lesson of living to the beat of his own drum. Eventually he got over this identity crisis. He realized that there was more to him than sports, discovering things about himself that even he didn’t know. He started to believe that he could make a difference.

This man still has his moments of doubt and can be unsure of his future like any other, but at least he knows who he is.

Our lives are like that of a river. You can change the pace of the water and alter the course of the river but can’t reverse the direction that the river flows. We can change parts of our lives and what we do within it but we generally can’t change who we are deep down, with a very few exceptions.

We humans are social creatures and like to fit in. While it is good to fit in to a certain extent, one can’t sacrifice their identity in order to do so.

Once a person is sure of whom he or she is, that person is more and more comfortable being themselves. This man I know is a good example. Though he was quiet and was always afraid to voice himself when he was younger, I knew that he had ambition. He was just too scared to act on it.

As he figured out who he was, that changed. Though still seen as quiet, he is capable of going after goals. After one of his goals had been reached, I asked him how he knew what to do.

 “I didn’t,” he replied. “I just felt that this was what I wanted to do in my heart.” Through hard work he reached a goal that his heart had dreamt. While what that goal was irrelevant, the fact that he reached is relevant.

Now, this guy I know usually thinks a lot of things through. But on this instance, he did not. What seemed so wrong in that logic ended up right. It defined the art of human identity and ambition.

So, to those of you who are worried about how to fit in the “real world,” I suggest to not worry. Be who you are. You will be happier that way and you will find that you can accomplish great things by being yourself. Ask yourself this – can you see some of this guy’s story within yourself? I can.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mkushi@student.umass.edu.

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