We spend most of the beginning of our lives figuring out who we want to be, what we want to do, where we want to go, and so on and so forth. But how do these decisions and the ever-changing events in our lives end up shaping who we become? What alters our decisions and choices and makes us, us? What role do the people we meet and emotions we face play, in who we eventually become? And how do they also change us for the better or for the worse? While there is no certain or definite answer to any of these questions, let’s try to answer some of them anyways and hopefully discover more about who we are and what shapes us as human beings.
Throughout our lives, our relationships with family, friends, teachers, and other people we spend time with will influence our decisions, emotions, and actions. As a kid, they provide a model for what is acceptable behavior and teach us how we should apply their example to our own actions. As we grow older, we use their decisions and the outcomes of these decisions to further determine our own actions and what the potential outcome for ourselves might be. These people we trust provide the information we need to make good decisions while simultaneously, build good character and values.
But what do we do when these people, the people we trust, don’t know what to do? Well, we know we will be terrified because how can we possibly figure out for ourselves or by ourselves what our best options are when the people we’ve relied on and looked up to for so long have no idea what to do? And the truth is, we won’t know or be able to figure it out until we try something new or make a decisions we are completely unsure about. It is also a chance to take risks we wouldn’t usually take, no matter how much they scare us. We now have a chance to be a role model for someone else and potentially make a huge difference in someone else’s life. So, how do the risks we take and the results of our actions shape how we will behave in the future and influence the “level” of risks we might take later? Generally, if we receive a more positive outcome we will be inclined to continue taking similar risks, after all, based on previous experience taking risks was well worth it and even beneficial. However, if the outcome is negative, we are far less likely to repeat our actions if we are only going to receive yet another unpleasant result. But I think that it is important for us to receive both positive and negative outcomes because they teach us how to make better decisions and think more carefully about the consequences in the future.
But what if we don’t have people to look up to or learn from, or what if those we trusted betray us? Do we still stand by them because they are family or someone close to us? Or do we walk away? How do we know if its time to walk away? And how far should we go to protect those we love and at what cost to ourselves and our well-being?
In the story Antigone by Sophocles, Oedipus’ daughter and sister, Antigone, is determined to bury her deceased brother, Polynices, even though the ruler of Thebes, Creon, has made his burial a crime since he killed the former ruler, Antigone and Polynices’ brother, Eteocles. Antigone knows that if she is caught, it will very likely result in her death but she does it anyways because he is still her brother despite the fact that he attacked and killed her other brother and the ruler of her homeland, Eteocles. This act of kindness was strongly influenced by her belief in tradition and the afterlife but it made me wonder is she would have done the same thing even if she didn’t belief in the afterlife, if she still would have done it out of respect and dignity for her brother.
I don’t know if I would do the same thing if I were in her position but I know that it is hard to determine when we should stand by family or loved ones no matter what they’ve done or when it’s time to walk away. How and where do we draw our lines? And how do we know when someone has crossed it? Those are questions that only you can answer and in reality, questions you should answer for yourself. Honestly, I don’t know when I would walk away because my decision would be strongly influenced by my relationship to the person and that specific situation. Walking away almost always feels like an impossible decision because you never know if maybe you had stayed, you could have done more or the outcome could have been different. But if something gets to the point where you feel that it is necessary to turn your back on the situation for the safety and well-being of yourself and/or the other person or people involved, then fear of the unknown shouldn’t be something to hold you back.
The people we meet, the events that take place, and the decisions we make, whether willingly or unwillingly, all add to who we are and who we will become. They help define our character and shape the person we want to be and show the rest of the world. Because of these people and events, we often are forced to make difficult and sometimes impossible decisions but these decisions usually end up altering the way we think about ourselves, the world, and others. They make you think about what is important to you and how you will let your priorities influence your character and actions. You might begin to decide or realize what values are essential to you and how these values are also evident in the people you care about. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you want to let the world around you influence who you are or who you want to become.
Here’s an example from “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon realizes how Amy has changed him: