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I like to say that my life has been one of constant motion. I have grown up in many different neighborhoods, schools, and with people from all sorts of backgrounds. Consequently, my environments have created much of who I am today. Through all of the changes in my life, or perhaps because of them, I have maintained and acquired a unique personality and values.
I lived in Greenville, South Carolina for twelve years. Greenville was a mix of everything- a rural, urban and suburban atmosphere all at once, perfect for my desire to explore. I would avidly adventure with my friends to the outskirts of town and back with an unsurpassed feeling of independence. I knew the place like I knew the back of my hand- better, in fact. In all aspects, Greenville epitomized friendliness and a strong sense of community. I was in a safe little bubble where everything and everyone was familiar to me, making me a very easy-going, laid-back person. Even when I moved around schools, I was always able to freely talk to others and adjust. So far, I had yet to encounter as much diversity as I would later in life. I was exposed to plenty of people, but it was a fairly homogenous group, both in mind and culture-which I was comfortable with. Moving out of my comfort zone was a tricky but important transition I had to make.
My family moved to the suburbs of Alpharetta, Georgia when I was twelve years old. I had a skeptical first impression of the cookie-cutter neighborhoods, all with their neatly trimmed yards, pastel colored houses and pricey cars. As the years passed, I came to appreciate the city’s opportunities and interesting lifestyle. Alpharetta was definitely not the affectionate, relaxing environment I had grown up in, but I feel that the biggest gift this move gave me was a much-needed dose of reality and an open mind.
I had a bit of culture shock for a while, especially at school. I was quite unsure of how to approach my new peers, who were vibrantly diverse in ethnicities, personalities and interests. I was intimidated by their ambitious attitudes, and it was with a little difficulty that I finally embraced the atmosphere and an open-minded nature. Looking back, I am really grateful that their persistent and charismatic natures rubbed off on me and helped me succeed. The tight knit group of people I was used to being with had vastly expanded. I gained a melting pot of friends who were happy to accept me into their different lifestyles. I also came to understand my own culture from interacting with the local Indian community. Celebrating functions like Diwali with friends gave me a sense of pride in my background that I had never before experienced. It was exciting to be a part of so many worlds coming together.
Yet consistency was a major problem for me. I moved to three different schools in my first three years of living in Alpharetta. It was agonizing to grow attached to people, which was my inherent tendency, only to be snatched away and be put in some other surroundings without my awareness. I had been used to moving before, but now I seemed unable to cope with my constantly changing situations. I eventually took from this an ability to realize the age-old paradox- that change is the only thing constant in this world, and that I should enjoy the moments I could.
The one idea my entire community seemed to agree on was that success must be achieved at all costs. I was amazed by the fiery competition among children and adults. I was used to being labeled “the smart one,” and had instilled in myself a sense of reassurance of that, but was proved otherwise. All of the students seemed to be the best and brightest, and I finally came to see myself as “average”, a level that was unacceptable to the new standards I was supposed to hold myself. My neighborhood and the traditions it upheld promoted this overachieving mindset indefinitely. I felt at first that the environment was a bit harsh, but had it been otherwise, I would not be as determined and vehement to succeed as I am. In a way, I was given a sample of the challenges of the real world. My community provided me with excellent role models to be beacons of light for me to look up to. I found help at every corner, whether it was from peers, teachers or other adults, who all led me to realize my full potential.
I have gone through a few bumpy roads growing up, because it took me a long time to understand what my communities had to offer. Both the environments I have lived in are equally important to my personality, contributing invaluable characteristics. At the core, I am both the open, adventurous Greenville and the ambitious, mature Alpharetta. I had to take the initiative to change my attitude towards life and make the best of my situations. Change has become a part of me, and I have learned to adapt myself extensively to keep up with its speed. I am confident that the process of finding my personality has given me strong preparation to face the rest of my life.