09 January 2011

"Real life"

I believe that the kind of people you surround yourself with is the kind of person you want to become.  Obviously, you share some similarities with them, some common interests, or you probably wouldn’t’ have met them to begin with.  I look at my closest group of friends and not one of them is exactly like me, because I admire qualities in them that I don’t possess.  They all have qualities that I strive to obtain. 

In elementary school I was in a class of 10.  We were all friends; if not for any other reason than necessity, there were only 10 of us.  Then once we arrived in the big scary world of high school there were choices!  What lunch table you sat at became your label as flagrantly as if it were stamped on your forehead.  My girls were nicknamed, “The Jesusans.”  Now if we were nicknamed The Jesusans at a Catholic high school, you know we must have been some good kids.  Through those pivotal adolescent years they were my stabilizing force, my moral compass, my peer pressure, my sounding board, in short, my life.  They were my girls I went to with every question, and we experienced every coming of age moment together.  I am so thankful that it was those girls; I know I chose wisely. :)

Some of The Jesusans

Then came public university time.  Without knowing anyone but my sister, I was in a brand new world.  This was the time to truly “find myself.”  Without the preconceptions of my high school persona, I could invent myself.  The first two years I stumbled around with different friends, but I think I finally found my footing by Junior year and had my core group of close friends.  Again, they shaped and molded the person I became.

All throughout this time of course I had the constant encouragement and love of my mother, father, sisters and extended family.  More than anyone else, through their own example (and basically not putting up with any of my other bullsh*t) they have been the ones to keep me in check to ensure that I am open-minded, slow to anger, quick to forgive, caring, compassionate, happy, and humorous.

So now that I am in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from every single person that has shaped who I am…who am I?  I was eating brunch today with a new friend when he asked me, “So what are you like in real life?”  Real life…real life, what is that?  It seems everyone over here uses the term, it just rolls off the tongue when referring to life where you pay bills and live in an apartment where you have your own bathroom, and go to work during the day, and make dinner at night, and oh yeah, aren’t in an active warzone.  Anyway, I started thinking, am I different here than stateside?  If I am, then why?  According to all those pretty cards and magnets and calendars and facebook statuses, I should “be true to myself and not apologize” or some witty variant of that.

It’s just an odd world to be without anyone who knows me and more importantly has played an integral part in what I have become.  To add to that, the people that do know me are amazingly supportive, but they haven’t been where I am, they can’t truly 100% grasp what is going on.  So the question remains how do I stay true to my genuine self and not get lost by adapting in this crazy world.

Well, sorry, if you’re expecting a emotionally gripping Hallmark movie conclusion to this post, because I don’t have the answers.  I’m still trying to figure it all out.  What I can come up with so far is to surround myself with people here who mirror people I know back home.  It wasn’t a conscious effort.  It just sort of happened, but when I talk to someone and think, wow, they really remind me of Luke, or that sounded like Emily, or they just checked my attitude like Beth, that’s my reassuring sign.  For better or worse, I’m still me.

 And I choose to be the best that I can be.
I choose to be authentic in everything I do.
My past don't dictate who I am. 
I choose.

Because you never know where life is gonna take you 
and you can't change where you've been.
But today, I have the opportunity to choose.
Release the guilt about why things happen the way they did 
cuz life is gonna do what it do.
And everyday, I have the opportunity to choose.
-India.Arie “I Choose”

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