Living with my parents for 22 years, I was conditioned to live and think in specific ways. My family values, and opinions shaped most of my childhood and adolescence. My parents taught me many valuable things in my life: making friends, trusting people, respecting others, and much more. The world beyond my family was small, as one expects it to be.
My perspective grew more expansive when I joined college, shaped by the friends I made and their opinions, and views. Though I had a wider exposure, it was now limited to my friends and family, who were brought up in the same or similar cultures. Their perspectives and opinions mostly aligned with mine. It was comforting to know that my friends and family were also thinking the same way about the world as I did.
When I was 22, I moved to the USA for my graduate studies and lived with my friends. I met new people from several cultural, racial, economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds, not to mention in a brand-new country. The vibe was different; the culture was mixed. People behaved, moved, spoke, and thought differently. It was overwhelming. I knew I was up for a challenge, but it was great exposure.
I was surrounded by people all the time for most of my life, and I rarely got a chance to be with myself. I didn't know what I was missing, and I wasn't sure if I even had any thoughts of my own. When you are in college and living with different people, your everyday life runs socially. As I grew older, my identity was handed over from my parents to my friends, from one country to another, and from one social group to another. I still lived with my friends for a few years after college, and nothing changed.
During one of those times, I realized the difference between growing up and growing older. It was a slow-burning process, but the truth was staring right at my face — I was growing older; I wasn't growing up. I was the same person all along, who tried to have collective opinions on everything, just because everyone around me thought so. "What are my own opinions on this?", "It doesn't make as much sense to me as it does to others", were some thoughts I ignored for a long time.
I lacked that sense of individuality and self-awareness. I don't know if this is what it means, but I'm going to use the term identity crisis to describe that phase. It was shocking to realize that I don't know who I am. When I tried to educate myself about this, I learned that's exactly what our 20s are for. I learned that to have individuality and identity,
- I should learn to isolate my thoughts from others' thoughts and think independently,
- I should put more effort into developing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally,
- I should unlearn some patterns and behaviors,
- I should understand that it's a lifelong process, there's no target, and try to keep my mind open for course corrections.
It occured that the answer to all the above was something significant — Solitude. I needed some time to think. I needed a safe space to become comfortable with my thoughts and existence. That was the missing piece in the puzzle called life, which keeps adding pieces. I needed to figure things out independently. I needed to try for emotional independence. I wanted to build confidence, I wanted to build some reputation with myself, and I wanted some accountability in my life.
I mustered the courage and decided to move alone. My family and friends were worried yet supportive. There was a lot of responsibility that came along with it, and I was terrified to do this. The decision soon became a reality, and it only got scarier and more overwhelming over the next few months. At the same time, it was liberating. It doesn't mean I shed my entire self and became a new person. I wanted time to carefully evaluate what pieces of the past I should carry and what patterns and behaviors I should unlearn.
Two years later, I can say that it is the best decision I've ever made. I sat with myself, evaluated my life choices, learned a lot about myself, identified some of my underlying flaws and tried to accept or overcome them, and learned to be grateful and content. I have made a lot of progress. None of this would have been possible if I didn't choose to be alone and independent. I don't intend to make it sound easy. It was tough but worth it.
It has been an introspective journey, and I look forward to the experiences and surprises in store. There are challenges every day, but they are equally rewarding. I wanted to write this short essay for anyone going through a similar crisis or trying to make it on their own. Trust yourself and go for it; you will thank yourself later. I am ending with some gratitude to all this blog's new and seasoned patrons. Thanks for reading! Peace out.