It was three years into my college experience that I realized I had changed. I sat face-to-face with myself in the mirror and had to decide whether I was content with who I saw. I then had to find the guts to live with the answer.
Being a student at a highly regarded institution known for its bright and outstanding students had its perks. However, after just a few months of meeting my new classmates, the future leaders of Africa, I soon realized that it had its pressures, too. I would soon try to live up to them. I found myself constantly thinking of what business(es) I could start to fit into the entrepreneurial-minded set of students. These were students I thought then were regarded the crème de la crème of the institution. I began wondering if I should be composing and releasing music to validate my vocal talent and creativity. In the midst of it all, I lost focus of the person I actually was or the one I wanted to be. I could no longer recognize the person in the mirror.
Disclaimer — I do not think that there is anything wrong with aspiring to be a better person. I believe that becoming or creating better versions of things is one of the gifts given to mankind, in every regard — the ability to progress, to reinvent, innovate, improve, etc. However, I also believe that with the rise of technology that lets us feed on the lives of others, prey on lifestyle trends, and compare our lives with the snippets of the lives of others, it’s easy to confuse “better” with “just anything different from me.” Needless to say, there is a growing need for contentment, appreciation of diversity and continuous self-discovery.
I believe that there is value in loving one’s current self and becoming a better version of that person. I also believe that there are gems in every human being that are only revealed through digging into one’s own path. There is absolutely no way any individual can be duplicated to the T, and the world is done a great disservice when we are comfortable cloning someone else rather than knowing and fully nurturing our authentic selves.
So, when the opportunity came to write anything we would like to say to future students who would wish to read the advice of those who walked before them (sounds so much cooler than it was), I could only think of one thing. Love, learn and cherish yourself. So I wrote the following letter.
Just one thing to master — be true to yourself.
It’s easy to get lost in the race for what society deems to be success, find yourself fighting the battles of others and winning their wars at the cost of losing your own. Regardless of how many times you give in to the temptation of conformity, you are unique. You are one of a kind, the only of your kind and there aren’t any words, fears, or physical constraints that can erase it. It’s in your DNA and in your heart for whatever it is that your heart beats for. It’s in your eyes that interpret things using the unique combination of your experiences, hopes, and personality.
The truth is that our revelations of life may be similar because some things simply remain — kindness, love, hope and more such as these. Our societal values have the power to make our bonds easier to fashion. Other things too, however, remain — envy, pride, jealousy, etc. and these only cripple our ability to grow stronger as interdependent people. Feet that act like hips, lungs that act like toes and whole bodies that act like hearts can never do enough walking to actually make a difference.
So, be you. Take time to learn and be yourself. Practice You. Wear your hat more times than you do those of others. Believe in your dreams and in your capability to live them. And remember — do not be foolish enough to think that you can survive without people who think differently from you. Build people up 99 percent more than you break them down (the one percent being complete mistakes). Although you are superbly, undoubtedly, and endlessly distinctive, you are but one piece in the puzzle of life and every piece needs a few others to help complete it.
All the best frien… acquainte… stranger.
Much love and hope,
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