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I am going to be completely honest with you. I am not a professional in the matter in which I am speaking of. I am simply a person who opened his mind and embraced what made him the person he is today.
Truthfully, it did take a long time to find who I am. Plenty of you or people you may know have probably struggled with being yourself or feeling comfortable in your own skin. But I can assure you, once you have learned to live rather than exist in this world, you will definitely feel a lot better than you can possibly ever imagine.
Coming from my own experiences, I have struggled with understanding the body I was occupying. And that is how I felt: just some mind in a stranger's body. I did not feel as I was happy to share the same identity as my physical self, as my mind was very different. In my head, I am always obsessed with reading and writing, but my physical body and age was more designated with playing video games and venture into the world of high school. Though I find some enjoyment in those activities, I never felt like Patrick Cao. I felt as I was simply hiding my true self under my skin. And it is pretty odd, since nobody in my life was against me enjoying what I truly loved, but it was more that I was my own enemy. I kept telling myself that I have to fit into this certain quota of a teenager, despite hating it.
After years of being miserable and questioning what made me the way I am, I eventually found something that worked: existentialism. For those that may not know of the subject, existentialism is a philosophy that revolves around the individual's point of view and personal experiences that shapes his/her's life. It also entails that one is responsible for his/her's life.
Though it may sound peculiar, I actually found who I was in my contemporary literature class, during my Senior year of high school. I'll never forget, my class and I were reading Tim O'Brian's "In the Lake of the Woods," which is a post-modern novel about the effects of the Vietnam War on a shattered man who is searching for his missing wife. Throughout the novel, readers are given snippets of information and clues that may give us the "true" ending of the novel. Spoiler alert: there is no definite ending on what happened to the missing wife. Despite being angry at first, I finally came to terms with a story without the "truth" and even questioned if there was a "truth" out there or if I had to discover my own version of it. See, I believe the truth is a very abstract component of one's life, as it heavily relies on the eye of the beholder; making it different from another's version.
Fast forward a month later in my English class, when we were reading Franz Kafka's novella, "The Metamorphosis," which tells the story of a travelling salesman, Gregor Samsa, that turns into a giant beetle/vermin (depending on the translated version you may have) and is thus rejected by his family because of it. The rest of the story revolves around the deterioration of the man turned beetle/vermin and how is family begins to alienate him with the rest of the family. But there was one particular moment that really got my gears working overtime. In Chapter 2, Gregor is crawling around as this heinous creature and starts admiring a photograph of a woman in furs. When his sister and mother try to take it down, he protects with his life, which made me think: How is it that something so obscure could mean something to him? But it hit me that Gregor is the one that makes it important and not any outside force. This in turn, made me think that it was up to me to find importance in the things in my life, despite them seeming meaningless to others.
Eventually, we discussed the story in class, and we touched upon the topic of existentialism and as soon as I knew the name of it, I researched it to death. It all just made sense to me. Instead of following a religion, I was embracing in what made me happy. Existentialism taught me to embrace my own absurdities and to find what makes me feel alive and no longer numb. Through discovering myself, I found that reading and writing were my source of self-love and happiness.
So, I just want to end off by saying, though it may be scary, never stop learning or discovering different aspects of the world around us; you should never be ashamed with your name.