Hello dear friends! Today I want to tell you about a little epiphany I had while teaching a high school summer course this week. During part of the course, my ESL students practiced listening to English passages and answering questions about them. The students are nearly fluent in English, so the material was more interesting than the basic conversations about weather or buying apples that I’m used to hearing in these types of classes. Interspersed with the speeches about astronomy and global warming was a five-minute excerpt that really made my ears stick up. It talked about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s main teachings. Trust me, you’re gonna dig it.
The part about Emerson’s teachings that grabbed me most was a section about “nonconformity.” The speaker mentioned how this meant being true to yourself and not following the “rules” of the world if they don’t align with your true sense of self. Ok. I kinda knew that but okaaaaay I’ll keep listening. (My inner monologue often sounds like a 15-year-old valley girl).
But then he said something else that made my ears all twitchy again.
“Nonconformity also means not conforming to yourself.
Oh say what? He went on to explain that often we think of this term (nonconformity) as a way to say that you should rebel against society and “be yourself.” You know, stick it to the man! Fist bump! But what if someone doesn’t love who they are? I’m talking about people who feel tied down by their past. You know the ones right? The people whose mantras might be…
I’ll always be depressed.
None of my relationships will ever work out.
I’m going to be overweight for the rest of my life.
Maybe I should just settle for my job, even though it doesn’t bring me joy.
I’m sure there’s a phrase each of us is clinging on to. Well, guess what? Emerson calls bullshit. You are a new person every single day of your life. Often we focus too much on the past, assuming we’re the same girl now as we were five years ago. So that mantra you’re still grasping? Chuck it in the trash, my friend. You are exactly who you want to be.
As the clock ticks by in our ESL class, Emerson spews one last bit of knowledge:
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet everyday, we make decisions about ourselves based on a girl (or guy, hey fellas!) who no longer exists. Of course, using the past can be helpful and necessary at times, but not when it’s holding you back from being the person you want to be and perhaps, deep down, the person you already are. So maybe a more accurate title for this post today is, “stop being who you were.” Because really, it doesn’t have to be who you are.
Which mantra are you going to let go of today?
Now, can we all agree that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bob Saget are quite possibly the same person? Good.