When I was 10 years old, I started to keep a quotation book on my nightstand. Every time I read a quote that resonated with me, I wrote it down. My first entry was a lyric from the Mariah Carey song, “Hero” (one of my deeper and more meaningful entries). Nine years later, on July 13, 2008, I read a quote about change and making an impact. It is this quote that I always look to for motivation and guidance:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.” – Unknown Monk, 1100AD
Making the choice to change can be one of life’s toughest decisions. I am not talking about changing your clothes or your hairstyle. I mean attitude or behavior change. It is easy to second guess yourself and question if the change is even possible. You may think, “What if those around me don’t agree? What if I don’t connect with my friends anymore?” There is no doubt you will run into roadblocks and challenges, as they are a part of the process. But you need to push through them to reach your true self.
My first two months as an undergraduate student were very rocky because I didn’t invest myself in the campus. I had made friends solely to survive and not because we had anything in common. After two months of floundering, I decided I needed to make a change. I wanted to find friends who I truly connected with and who would support me in becoming the person I wanted to be. I sought opportunities to become involved on campus and began to feel comfortable with myself and my surroundings. It was challenging to let go some of the friends I had made when I arrived but I knew it was the right decision. Getting involved on campus and participating in leadership opportunities helped me discover who I wanted to be and what I was truly passionate about. I had finally found where I fit in and what my purpose was!
Changing your attitudes and behaviors does not end after graduating college. I have only been at the University of St. Thomas for three months, and I am already changing. On Aug. 29, I listened to Kao Kalla Yang speak at the St. Thomas Fall Leadership Institute and heard a quote that resonated: “We are not what history created us to be, because we create history.” Just like the quote by the Unknown Monk, this inspires me to follow my dreams and not settle for an ordinary life.
From Mariah Carey to Kao Kalla Yang, my quotation book has matured along with me, and it will continue to grow as I continue to change. That book on my nightstand helps me take a step back, and allows me to think about who I am today and who I want to be.