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To thine own self be true

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a handful of university students giving advice to high school seniors ready to embark on the collegiate journey. Study. Go to class. Meet the professors. Sit up front in the classroom. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice, however, was a simple one that sometimes even we parents forget: Be yourself. Now there’s an idea.It’s easy to look around a classroom full of former valedictorians and think they must all be wondering what dragged you in. Or to glance around the dorm that first week and think every girl must be attending college on a beauty scholarship.But the truth is they’re all wondering something about you, too. Yes, you. There’s always someone with more of something for us to turn green with envy over. How about the mom who can bake 100 cupcakes without breaking a sweat? Or the dad who mows his lawn like it’s the outfield at Fenway Park? There’s the woman who works full time, always has time to volunteer, and still looks like a runway model; and the Harvard graduate who insists on talking politics or economics while cycling uphill – backwards. There are the “marathon moms,” pushing baby strollers while they train; former corporate chiefs who now climb mountains in the Himalayas. Dads who can actually find their tools in their neatly organized garages – and aren’t afraid to use them. There are moms who run the PTA and the CIA while some of us are still trying to decide if we should even bother getting dressed today at all.Let’s face it – there will always be someone smarter, someone more capable, someone with better bone structure, for heaven’s sake, so long as we all keep looking. On the other hand, there are simply people doing what they love and making it look easy because of it. We can envy them their positions in life, or lack thereof. As long we also leave room for them to envy us:The woman who smiles at everyone she meets and makes them feel as though she’s been waiting all day just to set eyes on them.The husband who hugs his wife close to him at the end of a day, genuinely glad to be together again.The mom who can’t always get her kids to wear clothes that match but who has their abiding love.The man who can fix anything with a pair of pliers and a Phillips screwdriver.The commuter who figures letting one more car merge won’t make him late for work.The family that laughs and plays and prays together.If it “takes all kinds,” then why do we keep trying to look and act and be so much like each other? Let others inspire us, perhaps, as to what we, too, are capable of. But by all means put your own twist on it. Be creative, be imaginative. Be yourself.We won’t all leave legacies of great note. But then again, if we’re truly being ourselves, who knows what could happen? Charla Belinski’s columns appear in the Post Independent every other Sunday. Contact her at Belinskis@comcast.net.


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