In his essay, Self-Reliance, famous transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson urges one to trust himself as “every heart vibrates to that iron string”(210). I see this ‘iron string’ whenever my brother fearlessly jumps off stairs on his skateboard; I hear it when my friend sings on stage, embracing the audience with her soothing voice. As Emerson describes, this ‘iron string’ is inside of everyone and radiates in unique shapes and forms. This passion is one’s truth to life, one’s reason for living and getting up everyday despite life’s hardships. I believe finding this ‘iron string’ can be a difficult task, but the hardest obstacle is learning to trust and accept one’s identity. It is challenging to listen to one’s inner voice when “the virtue in most request is conformity”(Emerson 210). Many, including myself, find safety in blending-in and hiding their uniqueness in order to belong. Yet, in the past couple years, I have realized the true importance of letting go of these trivial fears and tuning into that inner voice I have silenced for so long. Like the many transcendentalists, I believe finding one’s true identity is an adventure in itself and identities are ever-changing and evolving. As Henry David Thoreau found himself by living solely with nature in Walden, I joined many different groups to find my true passions. I learned how to play guitar, joined a soccer and softball team, painted freely in an art class, and even tried learning American Sign Language. Although I enjoyed these activities, I regarded them as pleasant hobbies rather than ‘iron strings.’ One summer, when I was going into sixth grade, I started volunteering at a day camp called Boys and Girls Club. I finally felt like I was doing something meaningful; I not only got to play games and do arts-in-crafts with children, but I was there to help them when they got hurt or felt sad. It was such a gratifying moment when I could make them laugh and smile again after they felt like giving up. After the summer was over, I unknowingly received an award for “Volunteer of the Year,” and I felt so grateful and excited to have done something impactful yet enjoyable at the same time. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do in the future, but I found hope in knowing I had learned a little more about myself. Similarly to Thoreau, I knew no matter what passion I chose to pursue, “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”(Thoreau 220). Thoreau lived in the woods to learn from the nature around him, and he took that same virtue of learning when he resided in jail; he took in all his surroundings and found gratitude in learning from experience. In particular, he described living in prison as “traveling into a far country” despite the seemingly hopeless situation; I hope I can take his sense of optimism throughout my journey in finding myself (Thoreau 239). During high school, I took on my passion for helping people in new ways. I began tutoring daily for children of all ages in all subjects, especially reading and writing. In addition, I became a committee member and captain for Relay for Life, which raises funds to support cancer research and help those affected with the disease. Most of my friends at the time did not really understand why I enjoyed tutoring or teaching; they told me I was a fool for possibly wanting to become a teacher because I would not make a lot of money. Although I felt hurt by their lack of support, I stuck to my values and trusted in Thoreau’s “Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose” as helping those around me was more important than making money(Thoreau 221). During freshman year, it became more apparent that my passion to help others was a necessity; my older brother’s mental illness became an increasing struggle for my family. It was difficult to see him so down and passionless; however, in time, he started to slowly recover, and my family and I learned how to adapt and help him cope with his disorder. Despite the many hardships, becoming more educated on how to support my brother and my family made me feel hopeful again. I finally felt like I understood what I wanted to do with my life and that was to pursue a career in psychology to help others affected by mental illness like my brother. All in all, I believe the quest in finding one’s ‘iron string’ is an ongoing cycle of possibilities; it may be challenging to discover one’s true passion, but experiencing new things and having patience can help make the adventure more satisfying. It is important to accept what makes one unique and resist the innate temptation to conform to society’s standards. As Emerson simply puts it, “nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of one’s mind”(Emerson 210).
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