The beginning of eighth grade was a stressful period. I was ready to graduate, but I also wanted to perform well. Every year, our school would split the group of 80 students between four different advisors. I was given the advisor I had hoped to receive, which made me even more excited to start the school year. The previous few years I had spent at that school were a large period of discovery. Since I was still considered a new student, I was struggling to come to terms with my identity and personality, so I often attempted to hide these qualities to be more liked. This year, I wanted to show more of my true self.
When I first saw my classroom, I immediately noticed that the room was spacious. Desks were lined into columns which made it easier to move throughout the area. However, I could not focus on examining the room because my concentration shifted to my classmates. They all had wide smiles plastered on their faces, but their nervous eyes revealed their insecurity. We were all afraid to begin a new year, despite eighth grade being regarded as an easy experience.
Throughout the next few months, the class environment was extremely positive. Since the entire student body was focused on graduating, there was little drama and a large amount of kindness. Because of this, I began to feel more optimistic. I was able to act the way I wanted and still feel like I was fitting in. I was confident that things would stay this way until the end of the year.
Eventually, the class became more restless. The days until graduation felt like they were increasing. As a result, the environment speedily shifted from constructive and accepting to negative and cold. The friendliness disappeared. False identities began to fade, revealing true colors. Meanwhile, my identity hid behind the same false one from years back. I was afraid of the consequences of my identity, as students were belittled for having personality traits similar to mine. I thought that changing to fit the school’s new norms would make me happier.
As the year progressed, I wrestled with the idea of having to lie about myself. I was unable to realize if I felt truly happy or not. I was still making friends because of my false identity, but at the cost of my character. Despite this, I still pushed my new self. To many, the idea of having a fake identity is reassuring because it is a survival tactic. However, the human desire to create false identities creates an imbalance between the real and the false characteristics. Real identities become altered by artificial personality traits.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the main character, Jay Gatsby, lies about his identity to fit in with richer society. He dons a new name and alters his entire past to create a new personality for himself. Further in the book, this new identity is exposed as a front, and the narrator, Nick, discusses Gatsby’s lies with the reader. He claims that “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter…” (The Great Gatsby, 180) Throughout the story, the green light is constantly utilized as a representation of Gatsby’s hopes. He chases after his hope because it allows him to feel fulfilled. Growing up in a poor family, Gatsby always dreamed of fitting in with the upper class. Thus, he lies about his identity to connect to those he thought he had a relation to, as he had always been chasing an high-class life. However, this desire becomes maleficial to Gatsby. He is viewed as an entirely different person from his past self because of his constant attempts to alter his character. Thus, Gatsby’s change in identity allowed him to fit in at a cost of losing parts of his prior self.
Like Gatsby, I began to realize I was acting differently, even when talking to teachers or at home. This insincere personality was beginning to affect my life in major ways. I was disconnected from others and myself. Impoliteness became a regularity; apathy made me seem compelling. I would pretend I was uninterested in conversations for a few laughs. I would sit in my same classroom, but it felt different. The space became limited and the room felt smaller. In an attempt to fit into my environment, I had lost my identity.
From this point onward, I struggled to redeem my true identity. I worked constantly to remove new negative habits. I attempted to connect with classmates who were willing to be themselves. I changed my manners at home and with teachers. I was afraid to be remembered as a person I did not want to become.
In the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hushpuppy, a child who lives with her father, experiences life in an uninhabited area. While Hushpuppy describes her life, she tells the listeners that she is “recording [her] story for the scientists in the future.” She then tells us that “in a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub” (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Released 27 June, 2012). In this quote, Hushpuppy is showing the human need to be remembered for our identity. She wants to be remembered as Hushpuppy from The Bathtub, and not an unnamed child from an unknown place. Hushpuppy’s desire to be remembered stems from her living conditions. She was afraid of being forgotten because she inhabited a closed off society. There are no scientists in her community, proving that her fear is real. The creator of the movie uses Hushpuppy’s struggle to represent society’s fear of not being known by those outside of their community.
In this instance, I felt like Hushpuppy. I was afraid that I would be forgotten, and forget myself, because I was not showing my identity to those around me. I was closed off from the rest of my class because I feared that I would not be remembered for my character. I created a fake one to counteract this, which eventually made me fear being remembered as somebody I was not.
By the end of the school year, I was able to reestablish who I was. The students I attempted to connect with became close friends, and I passed through the last weeks of school confident in myself and my new relationships. By graduation, I was excited for high school. Instead of putting on a facade, I hoped to create genuine connections by not losing my individuality again.