College. A time in a person’s life synonymous with freedom. With change. You’ve probably heard this said before, but college is a time for experimentation. In a new ‘radical’ environment you would think we would re-examine how we view ourselves. This is true in a sense but we are not actually looking at what we think about ourselves. Instead, we are looking at how everyone else sees us.
This way of shaping our identity based on how we think we are perceived by others is called symbolic interactionism. Feel free to toss that term around. I know there was a collective groan from my friends when (if) they read that. Looking back on my post from two weeks ago, I mentioned I went as symbolic interactionism for Halloween last year. Now you’re probably realizing how much of a nerd I truly am.
Anyway, coming into college or university, you pretty much have a fresh slate to work with. You can influence everyone’s opinions about you and form a new identity for yourself. Take a look at yourself. You might have already done just that.
A lot of people see college as the opportunity to create a new personality or unveil a little more about who they really are. This can be anything ranging from subtle nuances in their personality, changes in habits all the way up to full scale physical transformations in clothing, hairstyle, piercings, tattoos etc.
I’ve heard stories about people buying entirely new and different wardrobes before the school year begins. Others talk about getting that tattoo they would never dare get while living under their parents’ roof. Personally, my family has been joking about making sure I do not come home until that new tattoo is fully healed. In this respect, I’m lucky because I know if I were to get a tattoo while at school (not that I could afford one), as long as it was not too extreme (i.e. stars tattooed up my neck and face or something stupid like that), I do not think I would have to be too worried about incurring my parents’ wrath. I think…
What I’m getting at is, no matter how you change yourself there will still be those that knew you before you left for school. If you want to maintain these connections hopefully your ‘new’ persona will be accepted by everyone. Which is to say, try not to go overboard. Start slow, like getting a new hair cut with a new colour. Buy a few articles of clothing that might be completely different from what you would normally wear. Try opening yourself up to new music, new food etc. I tried tofu. It’s actually excellent if you have other stuff with it, like drowning it in a ton of soy sauce. However, I’ve discovered that I love bacon far too much to go vegetarian.
Just because you are in a new environment does not mean you have to completely change yourself. Try on a few ‘masks’; find out what you like because this is definitely the time to do it. Just be aware of how you’ll be perceived by everyone you ‘left behind’ to come to school. Oh, and try not to break the bank at the same time.