On the Art of Finding Yourself

If you told me in high school that I would find a second passion in college, I would have probably been confused. While I knew that these years were supposed to be spent discovering what you wanted to do with your life, I had never paid the notion much mind. I always had a dream, one I clutched desperately, and never stopped to consider that the world held so many pockets of knowledge. I never thought that there may be more than what I had already held close to my heart. 

In my first year of college, a dear friend of mine whose opinion I greatly respect recommended that I try an anthropology class. She thought that it might interest me and I, knowing that I had a core curriculum to fill out, decided to follow her advice. I enrolled in an introductory course on cultural anthropology and suddenly found myself thrown into the deep end of a newfound passion.

A photo from my trip to Japan in 2018.

I had always thought I knew what writing meant to me. Reflecting on this now though, I realise that the concept was muddy. Through taking an anthropology course, I not only learned something new about my interests, but I learned something new about my pre-existing passions as well. This single anthropology course invited me to look at how we write about culture, about people, and tossed me into a spiral of self-questioning. What was my goal with my stories? My poetry? What did it mean to me to read about others? 

I want to write to unite people. I want to write to connect with people. Anthropology, being the study of human cultures, helped me discover how I want to write about my own cultures… And it is through anthropology that I discovered that I truly want to learn about others’ as well. I want to read ethnographies. I want to do fieldwork. I want to conduct interviews. I want to learn. I want to connect. 

I think that growing up with a strong dream, while wonderful, put me in a one-track state of mind… That is, I became wound up in my “selfhood”. I thought I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. I didn’t stop to consider that the world is large– unlimited– and that my access to said world had opened up since the days I was in elementary school. And it was in this small boxed-off corner of the universe that I had begun to isolate myself from others– from my desire to reach out to others. I wanted to do it, but I didn’t realise that I was holding myself back from it. 

I am incredibly grateful to my friend for not only suggesting the class to me but for understanding me and thinking of me. Looking back, I think my time in college may have been very different if I had not tried something new. The unexpected made me curious and in this curiosity, I found a geode of passion waiting to be cracked open. Since then, I’ve kept my pickaxe handy; even now, in my last semester, I am still learning new things about where I want to be in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning now that I’ve begun– just as there is a limitless amount of things we can discover about the world, there’s a limitless amount of things we can discover about ourselves! And these new discoveries will inform the old, illuminating the past we thought we knew so well.

By: Ehani Schneiderman

Ehani Schneiderman is a senior studying literature and anthropology at The New School. She hopes to connect with others through writing, poetry, and cultural exchange. When she isn’t nose deep in a book or word document, you can find her paddle boarding in a bay or scuba diving out at sea.

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