As I sat in the small airplane seat at the end of this past summer contemplating what to do for the next six hours, I had an epiphany. I was staring out the window, watching the city lights of Seattle disappear beneath the cotton candy like clouds when the realization struck me: I was perfectly happy with who I am.
For years, I believed that I had to “find myself.” The idea was daunting to me. I thought it meant knowing what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
This flight from Seattle to Maui was not a new journey for me, as I have flown between Maui, Seattle, and my hometown in Alaska a few times every year since I moved to Maui my freshman year. Since I spend my summers in Alaska, I felt like I was Hannah Montana, trying to juggle two very different lives and I did not know how to find a balance between them.
It seems like everyone- teachers, parents, siblings, friends, society- puts so much pressure on teenagers these days to really “find themselves.” When it comes to college prep, we are told to find our passion and become involved in something that reflects it. The question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” puts more weight on teenagers’ shoulders when they feel like they have no idea yet what their dream career might be. I’ve seen phrases like “Travel the world, go find yourself!” advertised on travel sites and social media, further advocating for young adults to go on a soul searching journey.
Your teenage years are often thought of as the golden years of exploring, making mistakes, and having adventures. I feel like this is a soul-searching journey in itself. You do not have to embark on a trek across the world or spend a night out in the wilderness in order to find yourself, which is what Hollywood seems to portray.
Self discovery can be as simple as it sounds. It really is just a time to try new things, hang out with all different types of people, and maybe even get a crazy hair cut. There is no right or wrong way to find yourself; it is a process of learning what you like and what you do not like.
By realizing what you enjoy and what you dislike, you can learn from your experiences to help yourself in your future.
“Finding yourself” is not the same for everyone. Some people feel that it’s accomplished with milestones like graduating high school or turning eighteen. Do not be afraid to find yourself in your own way; try not rely on others when it comes to developing your own opinions and morals. Just because some of your friends might think they have their whole life figured out, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Maybe you spend some time reflecting by yourself or you join a new club, or maybe it hits you on an airplane like it did with me. On the plane, I didn’t realize that I had “found” myself. I realized that I am aware and confident in the person I am becoming. I realized that I do not have to choose between my different lives; instead, I can embrace the aspects that I enjoy from both.
Try not to stress about “finding yourself.” Just enjoy the ride!