High School Events that Shaped Me

This is an essay I just wrote for English [class in high school]. Any opinions? It’s nothing important…just some little thing. The assignment was to write an informal essay about three events that have greatly shaped my life. Enjoy!

It is extremely difficult—if not utterly impossible—for an individual to isolate a range of particular events that have molded him/her into who (s)he is today. Attempts to do so suffer from the same fallacies of generalization as the stereotypes that humans have been battling for centuries. But oft times in psychology and philosophy we find such generalizations entirely necessary for human comprehension, because perhaps an image based upon a few key principles is more beneficial than no view at all. We would find one hard-pressed to argue that the blind man is better off than his near-sighted friend.

It is astounding how often the most life-changing events come from the most inconspicuous sources. My enrollment in a political science class my freshman year of high school is one such event. While the assignments sometimes required a high degree of diligence, they also offered an amazing amount of freedom. It was my first true chance to take the debates I always carried inside my head to the external world. It was this time that I made two introspective observations that would shape my life to come. Firstly that the outside world would often not agree with me, but secondly (and arguably more importantly) that I could convince it to. My final act in the class was to give a speech in support of euthanasia, to which the teacher responded that it was “one of the best speeches” he had ever heard. This meant quite a lot to me, especially coming from a man with a doctorate in political science, and two-and-a-half years of teaching experience.

Another wholly unexpected influence was my conversion from public high school to distance education. Originally adopted to accommodate a traveling lifestyle, I soon found it gave me an invaluable commodity: time. While I used my time for myriad different purposes, I most importantly used it to think. I soon found myself breaking norms and taboos. Asking “why?” when others dared not speak. A slightly less important result of my departure from public school was my discovery of my love for people. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the absence of mere acquaintances was a great tragedy.

The most perceptible item in the fog of generalization would have to be my discovery of Secular Humanism. Besides being one of the greatest causes of change, it was also one of the greatest effects. It was the embodiment of all that I believed. It was a philosophy that actually supported equality and tolerationd. Knowing that there were others who shared my beliefs, I became more honest about who I was. I was once again expressing thoughts that had previously been confined to my mind.

The changes that I experienced had enormous effects upon my life. They also had enormous effects upon my friends. But while the truth about myself may have caused damage to the relationships I have with some of my friends, I cannot help but wonder if a true friend would be greatly swayed. While I’ve learned much from each of these events, the most important lesson remains that one must merely be him/herself, not who others want him/her to be. In the words of E. E. Cummings, “To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world doing its best, night and day, to make you everyone else—means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”