Going back to school is not always as painful as it seems it will be, but it’s certainly never an easy transition. I always fear it because it creeps up on me, along with feelings of excitement and a lot of confusion.
Rookie’s October theme is Cast of Characters, and it often seems like these themes are in synchronized tempo with the way my life is going. I’ve always felt like there were multiple versions of myself; one that exists at home and around my family; one that emerges with my close friends; and one that appears when I’m in school, surrounded by crowds of people. These versions of me come and go. They show up depending on the situation I’m in.
For most of the summer, I’m only one version of myself. I spend a lot of time alone and specifically curate the way my life will play out. Summer is predictable, and I like it that way. When I go back to school and am surrounded by others, I tend to talk excessively and act out in weird ways, which results in me feeling lousy because I’m being someone I’m not. I go back to school, and I feel like I’ve lost everything I had. I’m a totally new, different person.
In William James’s The Social Me, he explains how humans have three different selves: a spiritual self, a material self, and a social self. He writes that a person has as many “social selves” as there are individuals to recognize them. Reading The Social Me was equivalent to having an epiphany. I hadn’t known that having multiple versions of myself is not exclusive to me.
There are so many different personalities captured in who I am. These personalities are important, and part of me as much as my arms or legs are. Letting myself try on these characters and giving them all attention, without feeling conflicted or like a liar, is important. If I conform myself to one social self, how will I ever grow? I’m allowed to be outspoken in some settings and shy at other times. I am still figuring out how to manage all of my social selves and let them come together in harmony.
I don’t know how to contain and capture all of these multitudes into one, single self—and I don’t think that’s the point. ♦