I love how life imitates art and vice versa. Leave it to a TV series to ask the deep questions. The question of “Who are you?” has become prevalent in my life lately. It’s shown up in “The Gift” on Netflix, which is a series about an artist who sets out on a journey of self discovery and how her work ties into her ancestry. Many times in the first episode alone she was asked, “Who are you?” and as simple as the question was, it required her to question all she knew about herself and where she placed her self value. She began to pull at loose threads in the stories her parents would tell her about herself and her ancestry until her vision of herself began to crumble, and she had to find out who she was in the midst of chaos, much like this new generation of high school and college students today. They are forced to face themselves in self isolation and quarantine in the midst of a pandemic in one of the most crucial election years.
COVID-19 (C-19) has presented the ultimate Tower moment, where life as we have known it has been flipped on its head. Prior to the virus, many had plans to go to college or take a gap year and essentially live their best lives. They were probably looking forward to taking the road most traveled by: higher education, which leads to good job with benefits, meeting and marrying the love of their life, and retiring well off. Financial stability, love, and good emotional and mental health, this is the American dream. It’s also the misconception about adulting; that at some point we will have everything together. I think we’ve almost accepted that we’re not perfect and that things can fall through the cracks. If only we could extend this grace and wisdom to the youth…
I look back on most of my life, and I see that I equated who I was with what I did and was only happy when I was excelling at it, whether it be in academics or athletics. I defined myself by a summary of my accomplishments and goals not knowing who I truly was. I was a track and field athlete in pursuit of the olympics from the age of sixteen. My need to run was so engrained in me from the age of eight that I didn’t know who I was without it. I didn’t want to know who I was without it, but there came a day when I had no choice but to walk away from that piece of my identity. I was twenty two with no identity and even after acquiring a Masters degree in Film and Media, I took on the identity of “grad student filmmaker”. I was still seeing myself through the lens of my actions and valued myself according to what I was doing. It’s a common trap to fall into, and it wasn’t until everything was stripped from me that I truly saw who I was and what I brought to the table. It is my hope that the youth don’t have to lose pieces of themselves to find themselves the way I did. I hope they find themselves through joy and that they excel at everything they put their minds and hands to with support from their parents and guardians, so adults, please put yourselves in remembrance of a few things:
- You are their first teacher. They learn how to respond to success and failures through you.
- Tell them you love them, even when they’ve done nothing but sit on the couch watching Naruto all day. It shows that you see them, even when they haven’t necessarily done anything.
- Validate their emotions, even when you feel they are in the wrong. Everyone is entitled to their emotions. It is our responsibility as adults to facilitate and aid them in navigating them.
- Affirm who they are in the home before the world gets a chance to.
One of my favorite quotes is, “we are our ancestors wildest dreams”. It comforts me to know they are out there supporting my journey. How much more of an impact will your words have on your children with you present being a present force in their lives? They may or may not know who they are, but when you facilitate the journey with love, you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make together.