My biggest mistake as a teacher so far has been trying to be someone else and not being true to who we are. I had a long talk with a friend today that urged me to continue being consistent with who I am and my values and personality — what he valued the most in people was consistency.
We can’t try to change other people — they have to try to grow and change themselves. And how can we be true to trying to change others when we can’t even change ourselves?
In the first season of “True Detective,” protagonist Rust Cohle tells two detectives about who he is, and although he isn’t proud of it, he has accepted it. He works as a bartender four nights a week after his resignation as a homicide detective, and in between, he drinks copious amounts of alcohol. Cohle doesn’t fit society’s standard of perfection, but he is in full understanding of who he is, and it’s a lesson to us to do the same.
Likewise, isn’t it only human and natural to try to grow and change, to try to evolve? Perhaps Rust Cohle’s epiphany comes as a sign of resignation, that he just gave up trying to grow or change. But that isn’t the truth, because in the show, simply the passing of time and our journey along that passing grows us.
Human beings don’t change; they only grow. As we go into new environments and enter new roles, we try to become different people, leaving behind the personality quirks and past journeys and experiences that made us who we are.
And I’m here to tell you that that is a mistake, that no matter what happened in the past, it will still always be with us. The past always will. And that’s not a bad thing because we can’t always don new identities whenever we move to a new place or get a new job. Our past sins and past events that haunted us will always be a part of us. It is a common mistake for first-year teachers, like myself, to deny our own identities and try to be someone else, as both a pedagogical expert and classroom manager, than try to be ourselves.
So Cohle has tapped into the voice that tells us to be ourselves, and that we’ll be all the better for it. What’s stopping us then?
What’s truly stopping us is a deep-down belief that who we are as ourselves isn’t good enough. It’s the belief that our core identities would be rejected if we were to present them to people we’re still trying to prove ourselves to.
And when we’re trying to still prove ourselves and masquerade as something we’re not, we’re not acting authentically or effectively. We’re not saying to the world that being ourselves, being consistent, and being who we truly are is an acceptable feat.
So why do we try to put on a front? Why do we try to masquerade?
I don’t have easy answers to those questions, but for me, it comes from a stage of discomfort and skepticism. At some level, we distrust new environments because we’re not sure of how we’re received. And while that fear is natural, it is essential to move past that. Part of why alcohol is so pervasive in first-year college environments is that it is a drug that allows naive, scared, and impressionable kids to move past their fears of the other and the unknown. But alcohol is not a sustainable solution by any stretch of the imagination.
To be comfortable and consistent are gradual processes that take a while to achieve. So let’s work towards the acceptance of who we are even amidst a society or community that might not be the most receptive to it — we and our surroundings will thank us for staying consistent and being who we are.