Becoming a "Real Person"

When I was about 17 years old, I remember my oldest brother's friend from college saying to me "The last time I saw you, you were only 14- you're practically a real person now!"

As well-intentioned as his remark was, it's safe to say that I was the slightest bit offended by his comment. At 17, how could I "practically" be a "real person"? I was an autonomous being with thoughts and feelings of my own- I was a real person!

Looking back, though, I understand where he was coming from. At just 14 years old, and starting my freshman year of high school, I was self conscious of what I said, what I wore, and what people thought of me. Most of my everyday decisions were based off of what I was supposed to do. Whether those obligations were assigned by my parents or by my peers, I definitely wasn't the one calling the shots. For me, high school was never-ending series of "have-tos": I had to race every Wednesday and Saturday, I had to take more AP classes than the girl sitting next to me, and I had to apply Early Decision to the most prestigious school on my list.

I ticked off the have-tos, one by one, making sure I was measuring up to my classmates and meeting my parents' expectations. That final checkbox, though, was the most important of all: go to college. And not just any college, but the kind of school that everyone knows is hard to be accepted into. In the end, I didn't do what most kids from my high school were expected to do, and decided to run off to a country I had never even visited before. All of that planning, traveling, and, not to mention, those pro/con charts, didn't matter all that much. That was truly the first time I made my own decision, taking that first step into becoming a "real person."

Every time I think about how my life used to be- whether five years ago or last year- I'm amazed by how much it's changed, and how much more of a "real person" I've become. And so, as I sit here in deep reflection for no particular reason, I feel obliged to outline how I'm feeling about different aspects of my life- because, let's be honest, this blog is essentially just my own personal diary.

School // As much as I think it's important to have a well-rounded education in which you know the basics of all major subjects, I think that having requirements in all of those subjects at the college level is a bit silly- especially if they aren't relevant to your major. Studying just three subjects of my choice has really allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of not just those fields, but of the world around me. For once in my life I've actually found what I'm studying in class to be incredibly relevant to my daily life.

Running // Running used to be a chore. As much as I've always loved the social aspects of being a runner, it wasn't until university that I really started to appreciate the fun of running. Because there's less pressure on me to perform well, I've found that I've not only been enjoying racing more, but I've been improving in significant ways. Even if I'm not necessarily getting faster from race to race, I might be finding hills to be easier, or I might be having a better finish. While running in and of itself is healthy, I think over the past year I've developed  a healthier relationship with running and racing.

Free time // I never had time for new hobbies that were purely "for fun." Now, I've had the chance to not only write my blog once a week, but I've also picked up a few new pass times along the way. This year, I strayed from my comfort zone and tried out reeling- a type of Scottish dancing that involves a lot of spinning. Not only did this new club push me outside my comfort zone physically (I'm not the most graceful twirler), but it also challenged me socially. I'm usually one to be super outgoing and don't tend to have trouble assimilating to a new group of people, but showing up to reeling practice once a week quite frankly scared me. I quickly learned that I had to allow myself to be uncomfortable- and to be a newbie- in order to gain any confidence with reeling. All in all, though, I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to try something new in my free time- which is something I haven't been able to do in a while.

Okay, so the real question is, do I consider myself a "real person" now? Not exactly. But I do feel that I've "come into my own", as they say, now more than ever. I feel like I make more of my own decisions, and doing more of what I want to do in addition to what I decide I have to do. I'm not completely independent, though- my parents are still helping me along the way (thanks mom and dad!). Still, I think I'm much more of a "real person" today than I was at fourteen or seventeen. And I'll probably be saying the same thing about my nineteen year old self in a few years.  

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