Thousands of microscopic lives float throughout the sky, forced by the wind to land on potential patches of livable conditions. These seeds may have to go through hundreds of miles of brutal terrain and harsh weather to reach their future home. Like these seeds blown about by the discretion of the howling wind, I had no real power in choosing where I grew up or how I was raised. I was fortunate enough to won the biological lottery not only by beating out the other fertilized eggs racing to be me, but also by being born part of the most intelligent species on the planet. When I was born, I was introduced to my new life, just like the successful seed that lands in fertile soil is bound by its surroundings, I became bound to my already established family, culture, and social class. As the seeds grow accustomed to their new environment they begin to slowly sprout. Chemicals and molecules in the small seed begin to react to outside factors and the under the right conditions the seed will use a process called photosynthesis to feed itself and continue its growth until maturity.
Despite the obvious differences in biology, humans grow in a very similar (but different) fashion. Our mental growth is based on outside forces. Our experiences and the way we respond to them shape our values and concepts. We learn from what we do wrong or what we do right and inevitably grow. In eighteen years my values and perceptions have been molded by a series of personal experiences and events.
When we are newborn we do not comprehend the significance of time. Doctors say that the human brain begins to become aware of time after the first six months. After this period, we begin to develop a concept that will later become necessary for survival.
I remember the first instance I became aware of the importance of time. I was five years old and I missed my school bus. I remember the bright lights and loud sounds emitting from the bus as it approached my stop. I was running as fast as I could because I had woken up late. I remember the sounds of squeaking tennis shoes vigorously sliding on dirty slabs of concrete and oily, dark street rock, but despite my best effort, I could not beat the clock. I would be late because of a poor decision to oversleep. After a long contemplative walk to school, I made it my goal to never miss that bus again. I realized that if I missed my school bus, I would have to endure the tedious walk and in order to not miss my bus, I would just have to go to sleep early. My solution was simple. As a result of my negative experience I realized the consequences that misuse of time could really mean for me. Throughout my life, I have been able to apply this same line of thinking to almost everything associated with this sense of limited time, whether it’s writing an essay or coming in early for work. My life experiences have allowed me to value my time and grow into a more responsible person.
At thirteen I had yet to experience romance. I knew that it was a popular emotion to feel, but I really didn’t care. To me love was as strange a concept as complex math equations. Apparently my thirteen-year-old mind had better things to worry about, but that quickly changed. I remember seeing her for the first time. She was wearing a dull school uniform, but on her it popped. Her name was Allie. She had hazel eyes and light brown hair. She sat next to me in class, but I refused to talk to her. I was smitten, infatuated, red as roses and ready to be in "love." I told myself this feeling must be love because I’d never felt this way before. But like
most boys my age, I was wrong. I wasn’t in love at all. The butterflies in my stomach weren’t there because of some sudden realization and profound thirteen-year-old moment. I'm attracted to this girl, there's no doubt, but it's mostly due to hormones not love. I reached this conclusion when I mustered the courage to finally open my mouth. I asked about her hobbies, likes and dislikes, but as the conversation dragged on I saw that we had absolutely nothing in common. I found her to be incredibly attractive, but as soon as she started talking I zoned out. I came to realize that the idea of love isn’t just based on physical attraction, but on numerous factors. I now associate love with dependency, communication, and an ability to endure the most unpropitious of trials. All traits that I see within my family, friends, and past relationships. This small experience that occurred five years ago allowed me to grow regarding a pivotal concept in society, thus helping me to grow into a more mature individual.
Like love and time, success has no definite meaning. Different people see success in different ways. We change and grow in whichever way we interpret it. Throughout most of my life I believed success was solely based on monetary wealth. I also believed what statistics told me about projected graduate income and found it only logical to get a degree, so I applied to several universities. I chose one and was set: I would get a degree and in four years be deemed socially and economically successful because I had a stable job and consistent income.
When studying rigorously for my first ever calculus exam in college I went out to eat with friends for a well-deserved break. As we enjoyed our luxurious dollar burritos at one in the morning, I felt surprisingly overjoyed. I worried about the exam, I had no job, I had recently broken up with my two-year girlfriend and had exactly twenty dollars to my name. I might have been anything but joyous. Whether from the laughter of friends or the taste of superficial meat, everything felt “ok.”
That night I reflected on my previous goals and found them shallow because I realized that happiness had no part in the equation that had defined my idea of success. In only a couple of months my values changed: whether or not success is defined by money suddenly didn’t matter. I feel that I grew as person because I found no satisfaction in some of my old ideas anymore.
I’ve been able to grow in these three areas because of the specific experiences I’ve gone through. Like the seed I initially begin in settings that I am unable to control. Unlike the seed my values and beliefs are not dependent on the settings that I am born into. I am able to use a type of social photosynthesis in order to turn experiences in my environment into values that have helped me grow into the person I am now. Many people believe that our life is only bound to the settings we are born and raised in and that we become who we are based on these settings alone. I disagree. Life is never something that can be easily predicted. Every human on this planet has different experiences and values that will allow them to change and grow.