To Thine Own Self


 William Shakespeare once offered that one should “to thine own self be true.” It is with this philosophy that my body and soul are purely composed.

When I was in grade school, my parents were brought into the office for a rather serious, adult discussion: my lack of childlike attributes. I took everything too seriously, the school officials warned, as was made evident by the unnatural absence of unsupervised street wanderings with my “friends.” See, the school officials did not feel I had friends—I did not “hang” with them outside of the playground. How, then, could they be friends?

What went unnoticed, except by my parents who understood my “old soul” take on life, was that at even a young age I comprehended the difference between socializing with others and becoming others. I defined friends as people with whom I got along, shared select beliefs, and had a good time. My definition and that of the adults differed in that respect.

To mine own self I was true, though. I shared many laughs with my friends, but I also led a life separate from them. I was, and am, passionate about learning. Adam, one of my street wandering friends, showed scholarly interests. One day, in a secretive fashion, he revealed that he wished his mom would work less, be around more, and that he could travel the world—books being his first class flight—like I so often did.

As cartoons portray, an apple’s smacking Newton’s head revealed gravity to him. Adam was the apple that hit my head—wreaking havoc on the streets is not always expression of one’s true self. Rather, it’s an attempted conformance to society’s strict standards.

At even a young age, I knew when society had it wrong. I lent books and spent time with him outside of school in the hope that it would be escape he so desperately sought. The “peer force” was all too powerful, though. It got the better of him, so he assimilated. A mask was applied, his academic desires jailed, and the faux hoodlum within brought forth.

The school officials had zeroed in on me, concerned that my parents’ supervision was a detriment to my growth. Although sweet of them to care, they had the entirely wrong idea. I was not the one losing out on world experience—unable to see the many facets of our streets. No, my books and I traveled the entire world, even escaping its atmosphere and exploring beyond. Adam, however? He was confined. He ran the streets, but he did not experience that same free run of the universe as I. Yet, I was the one that society found fault with.

This has served to me as a call to action. Society must learn that acceptable behavior is not being like everybody else, mindlessly running the streets amok, but it is instead following the Shakesperian definition. Acceptable behavior is casting aside all peer pressure and being, to thine own self, true.

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michael schade

I like learning new things. Previously: Kenchi founder, eng & ops teams at Stripe from 2012-2019. Say hi! 🏳️‍🌈

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