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the student

Updated: Jan 23

Writing about who I am feels like a lie. It would be dishonest to claim I can see myself fully, that anyone is ever completely whole and definable at any given moment. I think we are a container of ideas, a series of reactions to external circumstances, an ever evolving tornado, picking up new things as we blaze our way forward. Where we get stuck is when we try too hard to ground ourselves in false identity, tether ourselves to people, places, or expectations that are meant to feed our knowledge of the world, not to be permanent fixtures in it. Our true potential is in our ability to change, discover new perspectives, explore new truths, and let go of that which does not serve us.

If we are a container of ever flowing thoughts and feelings, we are also a pot full of trauma stew we must stir intermittently. The closest thing to an identity is the collection of experiences that will never leave us, those that continue to inform every decision we make. It is a tendency of humans to negate the impact experiences have on our life, ego fighting the consciousness, attempting to feel in control when in reality we don’t have any. In turn, we negate the impact experiences have on other people, chastising and scrutinizing people for the same imperfection we ourselves embody. We want to feel invincible and superior, the very denial of vulnerability being what makes us susceptible to trauma and pain.

This is debilitating because stalling the processing of trauma prevents us from learning and changing for the better. The archaic yet pervasive idea that we must deal with things on our own is one that seeks to divide and imprison us in an endless cycle of self denial and isolation. Why would we be encouraged to think this way, and what we can do as a species to reverse the collective trauma of toxic individuality? To value equally all of our opinions and thoughts also means to value the pain of each other equally. The power we have in needing each other is far greater than the power we have in convincing ourselves we need no one. As a society we make it our goal to minimize struggle to avoid the consequences of pain, instead of accepting the necessity of struggle and finding new ways to cope as a collective, to normalize support. On an individual basis, I believe we can begin to reverse this cycle by taking the risk and sharing the pain, while asking consent and fostering boundaries around sharing. The way we treat ourselves is a reflection of what we want to see in the world.

A hindrance to spiritual growth is false purpose served on appealing looking platters all around us, from the moment we are born. Media romanticizes emaciated bodies causing unhappy people to place false hope in thigh gaps. High school administrators spin the tale that elite universities have something that community colleges don’t, that successful students have something struggling students don’t. Every film in existence finds some way to force a partner into the main character’s life, sending the message that another person can solve all of the confusion and existential dread we store in our consciousness. These promises are repeated over and over until it becomes impossible to imagine that these could be false realities, that the true path to self fulfillment requires full self acceptance, instead of these external, superficial trophies. The irony is food obsessions, relationships, and unrealistic expectations all get in the way of this fulfillment. It’s easy, comforting, and accessible to buy into the pretty lies, but the denial of change and inevitable imperfection can have scary consequences in a society in desperate need of accountability. Although education is central to our society, the perspective and attitudes toward learning and lack of understanding of the way our brains work continue to have dire consequences. The fear of being wrong is so deeply embedded in capitalist culture that critical thinking and conflict resolution become very unlikely in most social forums.

With this in mind, I wholeheartedly believe that learning is the purpose of existence, and we spend our lives learning how to be good students. I suggest that our worth is not in who we are, or the traumatic things we have endured, but rather the lessons we have learned and the way our thoughts and feelings shift with new information. It is in our ability to view others as containers of thought at varying levels of awareness, grappling with the reality of existence, attempting to feel grounded in themselves by any means possible, and always deserving of forgiveness, just like we are. True purpose is in learning, teaching others, and learning some more, acting as a conduit for information and expansion of thought and never deciding we have reached a point of moral superiority. Finding new ways to say things and see things is limitless and the potential for discovery is divine, attainable as soon as we let go of that which we are told to value and choose to forge our own path in the unknown terrain.

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