College and the question of identity

Illustration by Agalia Christophi

Any senior who is alive and breathing (though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it) has probably asked themselves the quintessential questions of identity: Who am I? What am I good at? What do I care about?

Before this year, I never really had to ask myself these questions. I rolled with the waves of high school. I took a “challenging schedule,” joined as many clubs as possible, played a sport; I did everything I could to check as many boxes as possible, all with the goal of getting into the college of my dreams. Tunnel vision.

As I began to fill out the Common Application, I thought it would be a breeze. After all, I worked tirelessly for three years to build what I thought would be the perfect resume. I just needed to transcribe it onto the application. However, as soon I started reading the essay prompts, I had a sinking feeling that I would need to think deeper than remembering what classes I took my freshman year. And it sucked.

Almost every school required me to write about my passions beyond the classroom. I spent countless nights laying on the floor of my bedroom, eyes glued to the ceiling, “introspective” music pulsing through my headphones. There must be something that makes me tick outside of school and sports.

But it seemed the harder I thought about it, the fewer and fewer interesting things I came up with. Then, it hit me.

I couldn’t come up with an answer to the question because my busy schedule never allowed me to ask it. I was so bogged down, going through the eternal cycle of two to three hour tennis practice, shower, dinner, three plus hours of homework, minimal sleep, repeat. There was no time for breathing or daydreaming about the elusive definition of “me.”

As I much I complained about and resisted (and procrastinated) trying to define myself, the whole application process forced me to press pause on my whirlwind of a life and truly think about what brings me joy or allows me to be truly content and passionate.

At times, it felt like it wasn’t fair; three months was not enough time to narrow and define my sense of identity and all of my diverse interests. But then again, is there ever really a “right time?” There was nothing I could do to change the Nov. 1 application deadline, so I decided at the very-last minute (though I recommend starting sooner) to rise to the occasion.

It was frustrating at times, and I often spent a good hour or two staring at my computer screen, but in the end, I gained a greater confidence in myself, something essential to starting college next year.

Through this somewhat forced introspection, I was able to define what is truly important to me: service, connecting with other people, empathy, working with kids, learning for the sake of learning, writing and asking challenging questions.

There are still things about myself I have yet to explore, but I have a sort of definition of Livie, even if it still a work-in-progress.

For those who have yet to hit “submit” or those just starting to think about college, the best piece of advice I can give is to not resist asking yourself these tough questions, and to take the time to slow down and answer them.


Print Editions

Online Editions