ALBORNOZ: Finding Identity in Adversity
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 23:10
"Coming of age" is a ubiquitous term, often characterized by teenagers stumbling across a few roadblocks on their way into adulthood. We are colored by dilemmas — our challenges and sufferings — and those that affect us during the formative years of our lives have an incalculable impact on our development.
I used to believe those challenges were simply a part of growing up. And I remember the expectation that growing up would be just as easy as growing taller. I was always cognizant of the fact that I would change dramatically with time; however, I always assumed that these changes would be gradual and would come as I grew into the fully formed adult version of myself.
In retrospect, this is exactly the way my personal change progressed over time. At each birthday party, you get asked the perennial question: “How does it feel to be 18?” but it is always more of an exclamation than a question — an assumption of marked change rather than a realization that things really do feel normal.
It was not until I arrived at Georgetown, however, that I began to notice how much my physical changes actually embodied a more profound, but less noticeable, mental and emotional difference. I had experienced the physical and mental suffering of health issues, the loss of a beloved grandmother and other challenges, but I had never fully dealt with moral suffering. It was the kind of aching growth spurt taking place within my spirit that forced me to question my values, my outlook, my humor, my thoughts, my friendships and my identity.
Ironically, our time at Georgetown is often defined by the post-graduation plans we make. Less frequently, however, do we define our time here by conscientiously defining ourselves. Part of that includes discussing the immediate challenges we encounter as we make that subtle, yet significant, transition into adulthood. The elation we feel on good days on the Hilltop is worth celebration and documentation, but there is also revelation in the moments we feel a bit more jaded or burned out.
Moral suffering, like all adversity, is painful. But it is important because it forces us to reckon with the fundamental truth of who we are. This type of adversity shows us when our foundations are shaky and forces us to cement them into place. It can also show us when those foundations are firm, letting us rise above our circumstances. This self-evaluation is critical to our full existence as men and women who can interact with one another as reflective, compassionate individuals.
Like most of adulthood, however, this kind of growth cannot be merely passive. It, like the Jesuit ideal of contemplation in action, requires movement, evaluation and discernment. If we do not learn to actively know ourselves — our deepest fears, insecurities, strengths, talents, weaknesses and values — we cannot expect our resumes to take us into the next stage of our lives. We certainly cannot expect to fully know and love other people for who they are if we do not give voice to our own consciousness.
By taking a moment to sit in the suffering of consciousness, we can gain the strength to advance beyond it. In times when we are called to respond with courage to a challenge, the sum of our parts will sustain us. Eventually, the more knocks to the knees we take, the more firmly we can plant our feet.
Maybe, on that midnight hour in December when the long-awaited Tombs stamp finds its way onto my forehead, and someone asks me “How does it feel to be 21?” I’ll feel exactly the same as I did two minutes earlier at age 20. I hope that when I am handed my diploma in May, I can turn to face Healy Lawn from the stage and identify faces in the crowd that I know and love so well because they have known me at my worst and loved me best.
More than anything, I hope I can cross that threshold having stumbled — not on stage, fingers crossed — across some roadblocks that have given me the strength to be who I am, and to be it well.
Bebe Albornoz is a senior in the College. Through the Hoya Lens appears every other Tuesday.