I was raised to believe that outside was a dangerous world, especially as a female. Both my parents are very skeptical, sometimes cynical, people. They tend to assume the worst in every situation, so predictably that I often leave a conversation wondering why I asked for their opinion already knowing what they would say.

But I’m not the best at reading people’s characters. I can easily believe anything a stranger says, only to question my judgment hours later when I’m by myself. It’s safe to say that I’m not good at forming my own thoughts under social pressure.

Perhaps it’s simply because I like to fit in. I modify my attire and behavior based on the community around me. I don’t like to stand out, at least not externally. I find my thoughts molded by those around me, only to reconvene with myself when no one’s watching.

I now understand that this behavior was a way for me to adapt to my changing environment, to fit in, and to keep what I liked. Adaptation is key to survival, after all.

For most of my life, I believed my parents held the word of god. I grew up thinking that they spoke Our truth. Not necessarily The truth, but Our truth. I have always resorted to my parents for the final say in every major decision I’ve made; to move forward without their consent felt like I was jinxing my own future.

When I graduated college, I realized that my thoughts could differ from that of my parents, and that it was okay. It’s an obvious statement, but one I was blinded from for most of my life. For anything that was unfamiliar, my parents were my source of truth.

For the first time since last year, I have been living outside the confines of home and school. Though I have been working full-time, I have a lot of time that I didn’t have before. This time has become precious in allowing me to sit with and formulate my own thoughts.

My goal is to continue developing my identity, all the while knowing that my current beliefs may very well change with time. I tend to feel conflicted when my beliefs and actions don’t concur. I can accept differing opinions, but I have yet to be able to empathize with those who hold them. The remedy is to broaden my field of acceptance, thereby minimizing any dissonance I might feel towards differing views.