When I chose to come to Georgetown, I knew full well that I was leaving behind everyone I had known from high school, which was even a swaying factor in my decision. It was going to be a fresh start no expectations, no presuppositions, just me as I am. We live so much of our lives in the shadow of who we have been instead of who we are. We act a certain way because that’s how people expect us to act, because that’s how we’ve always acted. Living like this — ants assigned a singular role in the colony prevents us from growing, learning and changing for the better.

Going somewhere new, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could shed the image I held of myself and craft an entirely different one. I could take the disassembled pieces of the person  others had labeled me and choose which ones to keep and which ones I wanted to leave far away in the past. I could cut my hair, go by a new name, change my style, alter the way I talked or even approach the world from an entirely new perspective. I was given this chance — this wonderfully rare and frightening opportunity — to be the person I had always wanted others to think I was. Yet, I didn’t take it. People asked me questions about myself, and I answered them based on who I’ve always been, not based on who I wanted to become.

Initially, I asked myself, “Why be anyone when you can just be yourself?” But, that’s not it because all of these parts are me. We are all made up of so many complex thoughts and desires — this teeming life energy — but how do you explain this willful combination to a stranger? How do you present the parts in a way that resembles the whole? How do you prevent someone from picking one part and setting it on a mantel as the representation of the whole piece? I don’t know I’m still trying to figure it out.

For me, the stigma of being stereotyped as the “brainiac” was what I wanted to escape from the most. Growing up, I don’t think my classmates realized how extremely damaging it was for me to be held to an impossible standard to be expected to always know the answer and to never make a mistake — especially when omniscience and perfection were never the goals of my existence. Staying in that environment, I was always going to be treated as merely an organ and never as a body. No matter how many instruments I played or dance styles I learned or sports I practiced, I was forever categorized as “the brain.” And that just wasn’t the whole picture.

I think a lot of us have spent too much time trapped in the one-dimensional point of existence that our peers have established for us. So, when I went through all the effort to remove myself from that situation, then failed to reconsider expressing one of the many suppressed facets of my being, I lost. What was the point of it all, if I was simply going to relegate myself back into the preconceived box I had been fighting to get out of for years? It wasn’t better that I was doing the labeling this time, no, it was infinitely worse. I have never wanted to be the restrainer of my own freedom of expression.

I think we all grapple with this sense of personal identity and are constantly waging a war against others who view us as different to how we view ourselves. I don’t know that we will ever fully be able to present our innate beings to the world, or even to another person, without being interpreted through others’ lenses — distorted from what we see and what we feel. I guess the best we can do is try, but there’s danger in complacency. College is a bizarrely temporal beast: It is the time in our lives when people seem to be the most fleeting, and it can be hard to make sense of what each encounter means when it doesn’t necessarily last very long. This can be a gift if we take every new person we meet as an opportunity to express ourselves as who we really are, not as who we masquerade as according to those who can’t grasp our beings.

Take the risk, and take the chance to be the only person who gets to define who you are.

Cyrena Touros is a freshman in the College. The Superscript appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com.

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