How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Aftermath
September 7, 2001
Imagine for a moment that you are the new kid in school. Okay, now imagine this happening to you seven times before your sophomore year of high school. Such has been the experience of [Aegel-maere Aetre], and whether the effects have been beneficial or not, only time will tell. To be honest, I still need some time to recover from it all. As with any new kid, the first notion to arrive in my head after all of these educational alterations was to somehow fit in with my most recent surroundings—as if I could live the chameleon’s life and simply blend into the crowds. Surely enough, by my sixth attempt at doing this, I had nearly mastered the arts of conversation, persuasion, and, above all, the practice of keeping a low enough profile so as not to gain unwanted attention and at the same time gain acceptance among my peers. Ironically, by the seventh time, specifically the promotion from Patapsco Middle School to Mt. Hebron High, I had given up on all of these arts, tucking the chameleon suit in an attic trunk like a once-new-now-antediluvian sweater, worn out and outgrown.
The realization dawns on me now that because I could never define my character by anything but my very temporary surroundings, I could not define myself. It was time for my to sit back and contemplate the situation for a second. The second grade (third school) picture of Winnie-the-Pooh sitting in his “thinking spot,” prodding his brain with one paw and saying “think, think, think” to himself over and over again comes to mind. The chief issue at hand was to decide there and then, July 1998, what exactly my long-term goals were. It took me almost the whole month to think of any, and the only one that I did discover was the goal to retire before the age of fifty. That would be a good enough goal, right? The thing is that I did not know then what I wanted to do with my life. Today things are only a little different. To brush aside the ceaseless pressure from my parents and the looming college years ahead, I say I want to become an architect or engineer, or possibly a writer. I keep it vague. I hold a limited interest in both areas… in all areas of study, for that matter. And frankly, I am sick of lying about it. Today I am interested in seeking a liberal arts college to further my engineering / architecture goals. Tomorrow I will be looking instead for a large college with a superior journalism program. In reality, it does not matter one bit; the illusion has long since lost its power over me. The one thing I have learned through my experiences is to see the world around me for what it truly is. Some call it seeing the big picture.
As soon as I saw this “picture,” my heart sank more than just a bit at the appalling breath of fresh air it dealt to my senses. The world around me seemed nothing but a collection of people, each living in their own little reality, all to some extent either ignorant or biased on one issue or another, and all living solely for the benefit of themselves, their friends and family. “How could they do otherwise?” I thought. All their lives these people had been taught to respect or honor one human over another, take one path instead of another, do one thing, but never the other. They learned this when they adapted to their own environment, thus becoming the result of it. I, the result of seven environments, have perhaps learned more of the wisdom and folly of each of them.
Accordingly, most of my interests and goals have heretofore been such as to do whatever possible to change the “picture” I once strove to blend into. Creative outlets come to mind, such as music, art… yes, writing and architecture, too. These are the things I do well but do not truly enjoy enough to call anything but short-term interests. It seems I can approach hardly any of my aspirations with more than a halfhearted effort. Nevertheless, I am an AP student of all four major subject areas with abilities many people can only dream of. I would like to thank in this paper all the people who ever pointed out how disproportionately gifted I was to be who I am, and how much of a shame it would be to waste my given talent. So I simply say to all the people who would like this ability, who could find a better use for it, take it! Not literally, of course. However, if there is one ability I have that I truly enjoy, it is the ability to help others on their way. I still might not know what I want to do with my life, although most likely I will seek out that architecture “goal,” at least for the moment, but if other people know what they want to do, and they need some assistance, some tutoring, or someone to simply lend an ear, I have been there for the past three years and will be there in the future.
Embellishing that thought, perchance my original idea of retiring early was in actuality not a bad objective to go for; after all, the things I enjoy most about life, and the actual goals I would rather set for myself, all involve the things done outside the “familiar” world. For me, remember, the school is anything except familiar territory, even in my fourth year at the same place as I am currently. My goals, then, are decidedly simple ones: to go to college, get a job, become involved in community projects, and stop to smell the roses on the way, bringing as many people with me as I can. I realize that it looks and sounds vague and philosophical, which is precisely my intention. Once again, think about it: I am one of the few fortunate people on this earth who can walk through life never having to worry about where my next meal is, or how I am going to make it through life, because I know confidently that pretty much no matter what I do I am going to make it, with energy to spare. Furthermore, I feel it a duty to help those who are less fortunate, and what is more, to do it outside of the workplace as a part of daily life. Where will this path lead? As I have said before, only time will tell.
I firmly believe that people form their identities as a result of their environments. From experience, I appreciate as well the effects of a beneficial environment over an unhealthy one. Given this information, it is easier to see why I would select architecture over my other hobbies. My greatest joy, however, is seeing another person succeed with my help. Karl Marx once said, “History is the story the winners tell.” No matter what I achieve in life, the best gratification I think I could have—and have—ever received comes in the form of a success story, told by an acquaintance turned close friend. I can imagine hardly any greater accomplishment.