Reactions, Self-Searching, and Character

I wanted this post to be about my first week and a half at Eastman. I wanted to write about all of my new friends, all of my fun stories, and all of my amazing classes. And maybe I’ll do that at some point, but I thought it would be more pertinent to address something that’s been on my mind as I’ve made this huge jump from high school to college: what makes me distinctly myself?

Although I say music is my life, does that mean that when I’m not practicing, I’m not myself? If I were to put myself somehow in a completely different body, would I be a different person? I found what I think to be the best answer to all these questions in somewhat of a strange place: the book I’m reading on dramatic writing. Lajos Egri does a brilliant job of explaining how to shape a character in a play, even if all the things you know about them are never revealed or even relevant to the audience. Egri explains that every good character is made up of three main dimensions: the physiological, the sociological, and the psychological. When taken out of the context of dramatic writing, this chapter can be boiled down to the fact that people are just a collection of their prior experiences, current circumstances, and how they choose to react to their current circumstances given their prior experiences.

The scary thing about college is that we’ve been placed in circumstances that are completely new. Sure, I lived away from home for a year. Sure, I’ve been in a rigorous environment before. But I’ve never had to walk to the bank by myself to meet with the bank people about my account. I’ve never had to plan my own transportation to and from church. I’ve never had to carve out to go to the local Art Gallery for my homework… until now. But conversely, I had never gotten to do all those things before, and now that I have those opportunities, it’s super cool to take advantage of all of them! 

Honestly though, when you look at anything in life, you always have new circumstances. So why does college seem like such a big jump? I think it’s because in addition to having new circumstances, we’re trying to figure out how to react. It’s not that we don’t know how to respond to this new responsibility or independence, it’s just that we understand there are many ways to approach it and for the first time, we’re in charge of which approach we choose. It seems simple, but it’s hard to navigate new circumstances and the potential for new reactions. 

The next step in my thought process, however, was something along the lines of, “If we change our reactions, does that change our character?” I don’t think so. Although some people’s character is defined by their consistent responses to other people or situations, other people’s character can be defined by constant change, which is just another consistent response. If we change how we act when we get to college or when we meet new people, isn’t that just as much of a distinct character trait as if we always acted the same way? In that case, if we all recognize that we are defined by our character, which comes from our unchanging attitudes and manifestations thereof, then college becomes the time for us to figure out which attitudes from our previous experiences we find the most important, and how we want those to materialize. All of this is absolutely terrifying.

Okay so back to the original question: what makes me distinctly myself? I’m a small 17-year old girl from Tennessee with blonde-ish hair, blue eyes, and light skin. I’m a college freshman music student, I love English and math, and I like to play golf. My parents and my little brother are a huge part of my life, as is my faith. I love musical theatre a little bit too much, I’m a somewhat social introvert, I’m an optimist, and I want to do something important for the world. And whatever I choose to do with all that is ultimately what sets me apart and identifies me as Reagan. As you go through your day, I’d like to encourage you to ponder what makes you you. What are your preferred reactions and where do those come from? Maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself… Have a wonderful day :)

ThoughtsReagan Casteel