Startin Anew

A College Student Trying To Be Cool

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “college is a place where you can be whoever you want to be,” you might have seen any movie ever made about college. It seems to be a pretty common expression, especially from older people telling me about how much I’m going to enjoy myself for the next four years.

But is it true? Can you really be who you want to be?

I’m trying to see if I can. Or at least sort of can. I don’t want to totally become a new person, but I do want to work on some things. I’m trying to become more interesting and charismatic, someone that people look up to and want to get to know.

And this isn’t too unusual in fact. According to a study done by University of Illinois researchers Hudson and Fraley, almost 96% of people surveyed were unhappy with some aspect of their personality, the most common being the desire to be more conscientious to others. And they also found that after six weeks of effort, many of the people surveyed were able to make a noticeable change in their chosen trait.

So what’s holding me back? I decided that nothing was.

I started college about three months ago, and I’ve been using it as an opportunity to try and be the loud, funny guy that everyone knows. It’s hard as shit. I finally had a breakthrough when my friend and I cut down a Christmas tree in the forest and put it in his dorm bathroom. (My type of breakthrough might be different from yours.) Surprisingly, doing something so incredibly stupid worked. People that I didn’t know came up to me asking if I was the tree guy. They looked at me with a mixture of respect and amazement that anyone would actually do something like that. So I’m getting there.

But what’s behind this? (The wanting to change part, not the cutting down a tree and putting it in in their bathroom part.) What’s ingrained in our culture that causes people to be unhappy with their identity?

A simple answer is: our country is obsessed with wanting to be better. We idolize movie stars and fitness models and we want our lives to be like theirs. In 2014 alone, Americans spent over $549 million on self-help books, according to a recent analysis by Marketdata Enterprises. And that’s not even counting the endless internet articles and YouTube videos on improving your life. There’s a huge market for people who want to be fit, happy, or have someone fall in love with them in 90 minutes or less.

So maybe I’ve just been watching too many movies. But regardless, I feel better and I’m happier with myself, which I couldn’t say honestly before. And there might be better ways to achieve that feeling, but for now I’m ok with people being impressed with my Fred and George like stunts. (There’s more that I don’t want to admit to doing.) I’m pretty sure most people aren’t taking this approach to “becoming the new me,” but it’s way more fun than a self-help book. I know that becoming completely satisfied with myself won’t happen overnight, and I’m enjoying the journey to get where I want to be.

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