College

It’s been about four years since high school graduation, and I’m still not ready for adulthood. At the same time, I think this is a good moment to reflect about what I learned in the past few years. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people, learn a lot about myself, and learn a lot about the world.

One of the most amazing things I learned about college is how open-minded it can be, if you go to the right school. Luckily, I went to a very liberal school in a very liberal city, so I was exposed to many types of thoughts, as well as people who expressed themselves freely. I hear from old classmates about how clique­like some colleges can be, but I can’t imagine being in that type of place. People come and go. Those from high school don’t always stay, and those in college don’t always stay either. But this is only college. Imagine how much bigger it gets from here.

This might sound kind of sad, but I also learned about a lot of the bad things about myself. I learned how ignorant and intolerant I was, and I’m still learning – and trying to accept – that I’m not as kind or as good as I would like to think. In college, I met all sorts of personalities and I learned to understand the psychology behind these people (at least, as much as I can as a 21 year old). A big part of college is finding out what you don’t like about yourself, and having to make a big decision as to what to do about it. Do you accept it? Do you change it? Do you hide it? Some people embrace what society sees as bad, and some people try to change themselves to be what this world calls good. College forces you to make hard decisions because you’re finally responsible for yourself. Go out tonight or study? Buy groceries or do the laundry? Become good friends with a few people, or friendly associates with a lot of people? Nobody else is responsible for you. That can be a scary but refreshing realization.

A large part of my school is being aware of the social issues happening in the world. Immigration, racial conflict, religious conflict, economic disparities, just to name a few. Not only did college force me to be more aware of the world, it forced me to have an opinion. It also taught me to be tolerant of others. Where do I stand in the world? What am I doing for the world? What do I want to do for the world? What can I do? Does any of that even matter? Why? I don’t know the answers and I’m not sure I will for a long time, but at the very least I was able to develop a perspective of how paradoxically big and small I am, and not only on campus but in the world. It scares me a little, but Freshman year of college scared me too, so I think it is okay to be a little scared.

As a senior in college, I’m almost a responsible adult. At least, I’d like to tell myself that. While I’ve come far since my high school days, there is still much for me to learn. At least I got the chance to learn this much, and for that I am grateful.

Image: Picography

CultureInspiration

Gender identity is a complicated topic. It is very personal and there is a lot of media with conflicting information about what it is. Once upon a time, it was just “male” or “female,” but that has changed. High school and college are confusing times, and a lot of wrong or misunderstood information can hurt people who are figuring themselves out.

Tumblr and Facebook and a lot of other social media have embraced various gender identity situations. Even though labels aren’t always the best way to get information across (because it can lead to stereotyping and harmful actions), it can also help people find others in similar situations. For example, my school recently started a group for “Trans or Gender-Nonconforming,” and the club is meant to provide a safe space for students to discuss gender and personal experience.  Many schools and universities have such clubs, and people who attend the meetings often realize that they are not alone, and this is comforting. 

What is important is that people are happy with how they see themselves. Theoretically, someone shouldn’t be judged negatively for how they identify.

Even though there are environments that allow for people to be a-gender, bigender, pangender, gender fluid, transgender, and many others, there are also places that are unaccustomed to this variety. It may be because of certain local or social customs. It may be because of misinformation. Either way, such environments can be a scary place for someone who is trying to understand themselves or others. The fear of being judged, shunned, bullied, hurt, or worse because of how they identify shouldn’t’ be an issue, but it is.

Like sexual orientation, gender identity is now becoming a topic that is being more socially acceptable to talk about. I hope that our society is able to transition to a place in which tolerance, acceptance, and freedom are words that can be associated with gender identity. I hope that people are able to accept others and themselves. I hope people can be free and open-minded.

It is okay to not be sure right now and it is okay to explore and try to understand. Growing is a part of change, and change is a part of growing.

If the situation now is difficult or scary, that’s okay. There will be new places and new people. Things get better. Love yourself and accept others. Remember that being happy and safe are the most important things.

Image: le vent le cri