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Are We Born the Way We Are, or Do We Get to Decide?

I remember well the last days of high school. There was a general sense of apocalypse, combined with the hopeful ideal that we will all soon be moving on to a better place. At this similitude of death and rebirth, it seemed like there was a frantic polarity between a desire to move on, and one to grasp everything that you have ever loved and never let go. Then, right at the center of all of this, we created artifacts of the moment, by signing each other’s yearbooks. I remember happy but desperately clingy signatures such as, “Let’s keep in touch,” “Call me this summer,” and “I’ll always remember…” But there was one theme, interspersed throughout many of these from-the-hip memorials and epitaphs, which shocked me.

For whatever reason, this idea was quite popular for yearbook signatures that year, and it populates many pages of my yearbook. It was the loving, yet damning, request to “never change” and “stay who you are.” Never change, I wondered? Why on earth would I never change? What could possibly be so precious about my 18-year-old self that I ought to solidify it into an eternal self-ness? This threw me into deep thought on what it is that we all think we are, and why we fear change. This is a thought process which I’m not entirely sure I’ve recovered from. Can I say that I know what I am? Can we know what we are? Or does it only matter what we do? I’m not even sure if these questions are significantly different, yet it speaks to a question which hits on so many aspects of life. What is my identity? Or in other words, are we what we are, or are we what we do?

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