Sunday, May 15, 2011

Self-Conscious Youth Narratives

I was eighteen when I decided I started brainstorming on what an autobiography might look like. I was in my sterile-looking and chilly room in my family's Sofian apartment, taking time out from the oppressive cultural narratives that blared out of the mouths of the individuals a few doors away.

I realised that I had gone through some many deep transformations in my life and had gone through so many inspiring and memorable things, that I thought my story would be valuable to tell.

Other people weren't so convinced, when I started to share my ambitions with them: "Aren't you a bit young for that? I mean, there's a lot of life left to live."

A few autobiographies of young women could be found here and there, but mostly the genre was reserved (in the public imagination) for old and wise people - former CEOs who had now retired, former presidents, big-time celebrities. The autobiography of a young woman called (as I was at the time) Maria Bell still struck me as a great idea in its very novelty, but I wasn't brave enough to see it through. Writing about people very close to you for the public is a very challenging balancing act:

How can I be faithful to my best friend while pointing out her weaknesses, I wondered?

How can I appreciate my parents yet still point out room for improvement?

So where I am? I've made a beginning, but not gotten very far after that... so many competing narratives within my own mind, so many questions I'm not finished honing.

At the same time I maintain that it's a wonderful idea for youth to get their stories out there... if they don't want the dominant paradigm to be from people older than them that don't understand their increasingly more clever and sophisticated ways, they have to get out there and claim the world as their own.

You can only learn so much from your elders - at some point you just have to trust yourself to go out and do things the best way for you, the way only you can. Don't stop learning, but rather manage to integrate learning within your self-assurance. If you're always cautious to live up to the standards other people set for you, that timidity will hold you back for much longer than is necessary.

I've always wanted to do things my own way, knowing that I am special and unlike anyone else - so why should I try to be? I don't want to waste my time trying to conform to the masses when I'm so much happier staring at the sky and devising my own high-flying notions.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you sharing your story? Don't be shy, the world is full of people who would like to be as self-activated as you are, and who can learn from your unique example. For every person who has ever doubted your relevance to your world, there's another who will nod in agreement as they follow your gaze.

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