Becoming a Better Person

I was perplexed. There were so many choices, but so many did not seem like enough. Enough for me at least. This was the first day of high school. I was dead center in the middle of the room. There were missing tiles in the ceiling above me. The stage in front of me sat crooked as many new freshies ran across it playing. I could hear the whispers of others. “They are so immature.”, “This is high school.”, “They aren’t going to last long here.”. I turn around to see where these comments were coming from. It was the bougies. They have not yet been labeled, but that’s who they were. What if they were judging me? I was standing alone in the middle of the room. These thoughts roamed around in my head for a while until I was distracted by another group of students. They were sitting in the corner of the room. All chill, seeming like they didn’t have a care in the world to give. Their surroundings did not matter. I corrected my posture and stood tall. I found myself trying to be like one of them. “You’re changing yourself J’Lynn!” I almost thought out loud. This was not good. I shouldn’t have to change myself to fit in. Well, at least not on the first day. I didn’t even know who these people were. I moved on. I realized that there were a few students scattered throughout the room, just sitting in random places. Their hands were holding their faces and their phones were holding their attention. They did not seem to be connected to the world around them. In fact, they were disconnected from the world around them. Unbothered and uninterested in the mild chaos of a new class. Maybe I should take a seat and decide later. My phone was on the verge of dying, so this was not a good idea. I saw the girl I was with not too long ago. The period just before we were dancing to the incredible songs of High School Musical. What else would new freshmen be dancing to on the first day of school? But she. She did not seem to notice that I was all alone. After a couple of jigs, she left me. She left like we’d never even associated with each other. Like we did not just bust out dance moves from a Disney Channel classic. I guess that means I just did not matter.

It seemed like a hack. A hack that I just could not get the hang of. How come everyone else had no difficulty with what I was trying to do? What I was trying to do was fit in. These groups of kids scattered in sections around me seemed like they have know each other for an eternity. And I knew no one and no one knew me. This was when the idea of change came to mind. Thoughts of “if I do this then that will…” or “maybe if I wear this then they will…” flooded my head. It became a constant thing. A custom routine. These thoughts appeared so frequently that I could no longer concentrated on the important things. My thoughts were unimportant. There were better things to be worried about at the time. Like school.

I had coped with the idea of change. The you should never change yourself for others quotes were settling in. I could change myself if it was for me though, and in a way, the change was for me. I wanted to become a better person. To me, becoming a better meant that I was a positive spirited person and made everyone feel appreciated. It also meant that I had an open mind and did nothing to provoke anyone. Even if nobody cared at all, which would most likely be the case, I wanted to do this for myself.

The further into freshman year I got, the more I realized that being a nice person was not the easiest thing to do. Apparently, to some, it was a crime to be nice. No matter what I did there was always someone who took my kindness for granted. They would notice it, take it, and stomp on it. Sometimes in my face, but most times behind my back. Sometimes it was appreciated but more than most times it was not. “You’re too nice,” a few would say in the most bitchy way possible. And others would disagree. “What? J’Lynn’s not nice!”, in the highest voice ever. This all confused me. So was I nice or not? This only made me push harder. I decided that I was going to stick with this tactic of being nice. My goal was still set. I still wanted to be a better person. And I was going to do whatever it took to achieve that goal.

Sophomore year was a lot easier. I actually knew people. I had my share of friends and teachers that I liked. But what I did not have was somebody who knew me. I had my two best friends and an upcoming squad, but these people did not know who I was. I say this because I still did not know who I was. The process of changing yourself was a little disconcerting. I never knew what to expect. I was never certain of where my actions would lead me. It was like that movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Living in the affirmative, he was never aware of what he was getting himself into, but he continued to follow through with his conviction. This was me. I was so determined to finish achieving my goal and as a result, I could barely predict my future.

As I was on the journey of becoming a “better” person, there were also a few other thoughts going through my head. I had set my past life aside to start a new one. Was this the best idea? All my accomplishments were going to be buried in the shadows of my new life. So what was I working with? Who was I going to be. At SLA it seemed like giving yourself a new name was a trend. Was I going to be apart of that trend? My name was already good enough, anyway the hassle of getting people to remember that you changed it was too much. What did I want people to know about me? I was not too sure. I was already in the process of putting myself out there, or at least I thought I was. People should know enough, but is enough ever enough? If people want to know something about me then they could ask me. I didn’t feel obligated to tell people about myself, unless they asked. Imagine walking up to someone and telling them what you ate for dinner two nights ago. It’s oddly strange, but that’s how I imagine it would feel like if I were to tell someone about myself without them asking.

The identity crisis didn’t end in freshmen year nor sophomore year. It stuck with me through my journey of high school. It rode with me in the sidecar of my motorcycle. Forever. And we traveled down an endless road. To this day I still consider my actions to be of better quality than they ever were before. I’m pretty satisfied with what I done with my life. If it was not for me wanting to become a better person, I would have never known the people I know today. That includes mentors and, best of all, friends. I never believed the phrase “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” because I took it too literally. But now I understand. I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it and never give up. Even with little motivation, if I want it I can go get it. I feel my goal being achieved, but this isn’t the end. If I could change myself for better over the course of two years then imagine what I could do in three or maybe five years. Time seems endless, until it ends of course, so why not make the most if it?

Comments (6)

Mekhi Friend (Student 2018)
Mekhi Friend

I like the descriptive language that you used and the visual effect were really good. After reading your essay and watching the video I have a new look at who you were freshman year as oppose to who you are now. Great Job.

Harrison Wellner (Student 2018)
Harrison Wellner

I never realized how much you want and try to be a nice person. I think it's interesting that you act this way, especially because I feel it pays off. I've only known you for a short time, but you appeared to me as though this was simply the way you were. I find your dedication to this ideal admirable. On the topic of your writing, I think it's very good. I think it's extraordinarily honest, and is written in a way such that everything you say feels real, and therefore entirely relatable. The way you describe how you felt on the first day, how it all felt like a hack. I find your description of niceness being a quote on quote crime particularly well written and insightful, especially the way you seem so in tune with your feelings on the matter, yet simultaneously uncertain of the situation. Overall this was an interesting and surprisingly real read, for something as seemingly simple as going to a new school.

Eleanor Shamble (Student 2018)
Eleanor Shamble

You really do come across as a social butterfly most of the time, but I never really thought about the internal struggle you may have had in getting there. I really liked the discussion on how you can change yourself. Lots of people don't really focus on self improvement as much as they could (or should), so it's really refreshing to see someone's story of trying to and succeeding. You're a very admirable person. The essay was really thoughtful. Good work!

Charles Velazquez (Student 2018)
Charles Velazquez

I like how honest this essay was and I felt like she wasn't holding anything back from the audience. I was surprised to learn about her struggle with her identity freshman year because I see her as someone with a lot of confidence in herself and sticks to her values. Overall, the essay kept my interest and the video was great!

Christopher Irwin-Diehl (Student 2018)
Christopher Irwin-Diehl

I learned that you weren't always as kind as you are now, but that you persevered no matter what critisisms you recieved, and shaped yourself into the person you wanted to be. I liked a lot of the fun phrases you had, like "Their hands were holding their heads, and their phones were holding their attention." Neat little play on words.

Opoku Kwateng (Student 2018)
Opoku Kwateng

I like your use of metaphors. It kept me entertained and helped the flow of the story. As a close friend of yours I did not learn much, however I did realize how secluded you were on the first day of highschool after reading this.