It is my sincere belief that there is a time in every person's life when his or her philosophy and outlook on life faces a serious challenge. This manner of walking and living may work for a long time, yet it seems as if somewhere down the road, impediments appear to steer people off their courses.
At this point in my Princeton career, I feel just like this person. My level of frustration has reached its peak, coming mainly through interactions with my peers on campus. My way of approaching life and people does not seem to work here, despite my desperate attempts to make it fit in the scheme of things at this place called Princeton. But perhaps I should define my philosophy in order to provide a better glimpse into my dilemma.
As my writing seminar professor so perfectly defined it, I come from the school of "urban keep-it-realism." Growing up in a city like Philadelphia, particularly in an area as diverse and full of racial tension as South Philadelphia, I learned at an early age that to gain the respect of those around me, I would have to be myself. This definition of me was marked by an absence of pretense and an emphasis on self-assurance in order to be capable of dealing with other strong personalities. As long as I kept it real with myself and with others, people would keep it real with me. It wasn't much to ask, since in the end, you knew that the people with whom you dealt were genuine.
This type of relationship has its pros and cons. One benefit is that you never have to second guess with people and you can take them at face value. That someone will tell you what he or she really feels without inhibition provides some security in the knowledge that what you see is what you get. This way of life could appear to outsiders as rude or disrespectful to one's feelings. Additionally, there is no guarantee that you want to hear what someone else really feels about something, especially if the subject at hand happens to be you.
With all of that said, my appreciation for keeping it real is evident in the way I converse, in my honesty with people and in the opinions I express, whether they be in this medium or in any other forum of discussion. This way of living has kept me afloat for 19 years and probably kept me alive while walking the streets of Philadelphia. When I keep it real with people, I not only show them respect, but I also demand the very same from them. It would be unfair of me to give people any less because keeping it real with people is equivalent to being completely honest with them.
I quickly learned, unfortunately, that this way of living has not been the guiding light of many people here. Along with the majority of them being, as NBC News' Brian Williams put it, the "me" generation, slowly succumbing to the wiles of self-importance and pretentiousness, they also quickly find that the only way to get through life is by putting on a charade. In many ways, the facade that people put on goes hand-in-hand with the self-importance in which they revel, since they are always looking for a way to make themselves look better in the eyes of others.
While some people may be able to appreciate this and even accept it, I have the hardest time coming to terms with this behavior, especially after years of being real with people. I have never witnessed the degree of flattery and sugarcoating that I see here, and it sickens me because I know that most people are only putting on airs to hide their true feelings. Not only that, but I am almost positive that these true feelings eventually come out in private conversation, only to be temporarily forgotten and shoved aside while in public.
This begs me to ask a question that one of my friends so often loves to pose: "Seriously?" Why is it that I can't say what I mean and mean what I say here? Whom am I really protecting when I don't say what others are afraid to say? I refuse to change my way of dealing with people solely to fit into this world of lies, because if I were to put on a charade like most people, it would not benefit anyone. This world of make-believe in which we live only contributes to the conceit and self-absorption of people both here and in our generation as a whole. It reeks of dishonesty, deception and downright cowardice.
Life is so much easier when you keep it real. If most people adhered to this line of thought and lifestyle, there probably would not be as much insecurity feeding the self-importance that plagues so many here. Sadly, people here hold dear to tradition, in both its best and worst forms. Perhaps it is time for me to start a new school of thought here. Enrollment for Keep-It-Realism 101 begins right away. Walter Griffin is a freshman from Philadelphia, Pa. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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