It’s that time of year again. Time for teenagers to celebrate in the streets–another year gone. As local teachers flee to their liquor cabinets and above-ground pools, high schools release hundreds of hyped-up kids ready to take on the unsuspecting world around them, decisions are being made to shape our country’s future. The youth of our great nation are being thrown into the stressful tornado of post-secondary preparation. As residences begin their acceptances, waitlisters begin to sweat, and scholarship deadlines loom, the summer season is upon us. Students planning a return in the fall relax as they soak up the sun, and graduates taking the year off begin the daunting search for summer employment. As anxious soon-to-be-freshmen work to meet all their deadlines, remember all the “important dates,” and somehow find time in their end of high school celebrations (let the underage drinking bonfire season commence!) to figure out how to navigate the Blackboard system for your school of choice (seriously, give it a few months. It’ll make sense.), there’s a percentage of every graduating class that spend their time differently.
Every year, students from around the globe go on vacations, adventures, journeys, whatever, to “find themselves.” Now, this is not limited to students, but being a student myself, this is the side I often see. So, I love traveling. I’ve learned more from wandering in a foreign city than anyone could ever teach. There’s just nothing better than experiencing the absolute culture of another area, away from your comfort zone. Whether you set off on a one-man-one-van road trip across the country that you’ve been planning since eighth grade, or you’ve finally convince your parents to pay for half your way to volunteering abroad, there’s something you need to know before you set off: you are not going to “find yourself.”
People started vacationing to “find themselves” in the 40s, and they named it the “mid-life crisis.” When teenagers started developing the same wanderlust in the 60s, they called it “finding yourself,” which made it socially acceptable to drop everything and take off. However, I beg to disagree. These individually-wrapped vacations will not result in a inspirational epiphany the second you step over the border. Traveling is about the experience, and what it can bring to light in your sheltered, not-yet-broadened horizons, not waiting for a lightning bolt of ambition to strike and tell you what to do with your life.
Now, this isn’t supposed to be a tirade on misfits or spontaneity or a rant written in vain. I have nothing against vacationing alone or taking time before attending post-secondary schooling, I write simply to make a request: stop using the phrase “find yourself.” It’s a cliche, it’s overused, it’s tacky-sounding, and in all honesty, it’s just inaccurate. Places will not change you. Volunteering to save the sea turtles in Guatemala will most likely introduce you to incredible people, places, and give you an amazing experience, but you will not “find yourself.” You are You and always will be. Post-Guatemala You might just be a little more enlightened.
Feel free to indulge yourself in your road trip across the country. That much time with yourself is definitely going to result in something, although it might just be a newfound appreciation of social contact. A solo vacation is nothing to shy away from, even if all you gain is a tan and some sore muscles. So go ahead, book that ticket, buy that bus, (or, if you’re not entirely there yet, start saving!), and take that trip. A few weeks of solo drinking, flirting with dark, handsome strangers, and reading everything you can get your hands on is sure to bring some perspective. And future froshies for the fall? Get ready for one of the best years of your life.