How much are we a product of our influences and our heroes, the social groups we belong to, and the social groups we want to belong to? I hope I find some camaraderie through this post. It’s a bit of a meandering post and ends in a thing about youth, but anyway, enjoy my thought dump.
Truthfully, this post doesn’t have much to do with the studying abroad series I’ve been writing the last while, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I’ve gotten back.
You must hear all the time that travelling opens up your perspectives. I’m tired of repeating this cliche, but it really does. Seeing different places and faces lets you appreciate the diversity of people out there. For example, I live in an immigrant-heavy coastal city where practically everyone I know has been on a plane and a different country because they were probably not born in this country. However, while abroad, I learned (quite surprisingly) that for many of my fellow-study-abroaders, this was the first time they’d ever gotten on a plane, went to a different country, or had their passport photos taken.
And the more people you meet, the more lifestyles you encounter that are different from your own, the more you start to question who you are.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the things I do and why I do them. I do things because I enjoy them…right? Or do I do things because the people in my immediate surroundings are doing them. Even worse, do I do things to fit in, to look good in front of a person/people I’d like to accept me?
Thinking like this makes me scared, because to be honest, I do take part in certain activities to appear a certain way or please a certain group/person. I think we all do. It’s how we get validation and a sense of belonging, to an extent.
(Generalizing immensely), I feel that most groups of young people are either very sociable and outgoing individuals that prefer activities like going to parties, or more introverted individuals who prefer a quiet night of conversation with intimate friends.
In my experience, it feels like you either have to belong to one or the other, but not both. And having dipped in both types of these groups, there is definitely a stigma both types have against the other. People who like to party tend to see people who don’t as nerdy and boring, and wonder what the fun is in that. People who prefer staying in see people who party as unproductive time wasters not doing their livers a service, and wonder what the fun is in that.
I hope I’m not alone in admitting that, depending on my mood, I like both—to an extent. This became especially clear during studying abroad because I had more opportunity to spontaneously go out. At home, going out is something laborious that I kind of dread, and last year I would have considered myself a quiet and stay-at-home person. But while in the midst of random dorm parties in England, I’d think to myself, “Hey, this really isn’t all that bad.”
On some days I’d want to let loose and go to a loud place, talk loudly, and enjoy a highball. On other days I’d rather snuggle up with a few close friends and watch a movie with a hot drink. And that’s where my identity crisis lies—in each of these spheres, I feel, well, incomplete. In the first scenario, I feel that I lack an important sort of social intimacy, the kind you can’t get at a loud club. In the second scenario, I have a restlessness that I should be doing something more than just sitting around.
Am I supposed to pick one social-culture and commit to it, or find a social-culture exactly like myself? If it’s the latter, I haven’t found a group like this yet. I feel like a floater, floating between personalities, floating between spaces where I feel comfort in one moment and discomfort the next.
I don’t know how to answer my question. Maybe I have to do the thing where I hike out into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and get to know myself. Or maybe, as I’ve disclaimed, I’m making massive generalizations that are uncalled for, perceiving people as more polarized than they actually are. But a lot of social interaction has to do with perception, right? And this is what I (perhaps in a skewed way) perceive: a general sense of un-belonging, of something-missing-ness amongst other humans—and consequential identity crises.
Like I said in a previous post, I felt like a different person on exchange, willing to take on more things than I usually do. Now that I’m home, am I still that person? Honestly, I’m not sure.
Or maybe people are fluid. We change by the day and by the decade, and between the hours of the day we adapt our behaviours accordingly.
Or maybe I’m just growing up and changing and finding my niche. Just a year ago I was definitely not the person I am now. Just a year ago I expected to stay in Vancouver for the rest of my life, get a career here, and eventually earn enough to buy a house maybe. Now, in February 2016, after coming back from exchange, I want to live in a variety of places. I’m thinking of moving to Scotland for a year or two. I’m thinking of doing more travelling after that. I’m thinking of doing more physical things, whether that be outdoor adventuring or working in a forest doing manual labour. I’m thinking of becoming a barista and meeting a hundred different people each day.
When I was in England—probably due to living with a dorm of eager students several years younger than myself—I was reminded of the newness and wonder of being young. Having been in university for some years now, I’ve started to move away from youthful idealism towards a more adult-like seriousness when thinking about life. But while I was having adventures in England, watching my first-year roommates move out for the first time, seeing the excitement and anticipation in their eyes, I thought: “Hey, youth doesn’t have to be over. I’m still only 21. I’m allowed to make mistakes, explore, and discover who I really am.”
And I don’t think we should stop doing that. Ever.