- Henry Huang
The Importance of Community
By Henry Huang
Competition has a tendency to bring the best and the worst out of people. It was the driving factor of my high school experience. There was a wide variety of what was considered important in my area, like a perfect GPA and valedictorian glory. Others strived for athletic greatness, musical prestige with their respective instruments, or financial superiority. No matter the goal, everyone had a field that they had to succeed in. I felt pressured to match the competition around me and it took a toll on me mentally.
Among all this chaos, I was a kid trying to find a place in the stressful environment. I tried my hand at academic and musical distinction to no avail, which devastated me. I achieved great things in some areas, but it didn’t feel like enough at times. I made it into my school’s top orchestra my sophomore year which was a proud personal achievement for me. However, I felt excluded from the group as I tried to achieve the same goals that my peers reached. I was surpassed easily and felt unmotivated to try harder to succeed. My other classes were not encouraging either. I felt shut out from everyone else as I wasn’t allowed to contribute to group projects. I heard the negativity so often that I ended up losing belief in myself. The competition got the best of me and I moved into a shell that suppressed the person that I could be. I developed a shyness due to fear that my ideas would be looked down upon. This fear extended past academic settings and shaped who I became by my senior year of high school. In any social situation I’d shut down and worry about being seen as weird or unintelligent. This was my biggest struggle as I failed to make any meaningful connections with others. I felt lonely as I had no one to turn to, and I thought no one could relate to how I felt at the time. I finished high school broken and unconfident. However, I still had hope because I knew college was the next step. It was my second chance.
I was nervous and excited at the same time for the upcoming adventure. I was nervous to be going to a new environment knowing no one and the potential loneliness that I’d feel. I was nervous that maybe college would be the exact same toxic environment that I so desperately wanted to leave. However, I was excited for a new opportunity to reinvent myself and finally grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I knew this growth would take time and it wouldn’t be a smooth experience. However, I had to take advantage of the situation to the best of my ability. I reset my mind and decided that I would be easier on myself. I was determined to not let drawbacks negatively chip away at my mind but instead use it as a learning experience. I knew that the ultimate goal would be to fully evolve my mindset into one that would accept new experiences and be unafraid of expressing myself. There was only so much I could control in a big life changing event such as this, and I took a leap of faith towards the unknown.
The first semester was difficult. Everyday I’d wake up nervous as I knew I’d have to socialize with people that I barely knew, and I didn’t have a safe space when I needed a break. I wasn’t creating strong connections with my new friends quickly, and I spiraled into self-doubt. The increasing loneliness made me feel like I might have made the wrong decision. However, these early experiences would be the building blocks for the impending growth to come. I grew closer with my friends with every passing day. Late night conversations with others became a regular occurrence as everyone became more comfortable opening up in the quiet hours. I realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling that loneliness and doubt, and in this moment I understood something important. I understood the importance of finding supportive people. Friends who wanted to bring the best out of each other. Everyone has their own struggles, and there’s no easy path through life. Practicing allyship and empowering one another to succeed is the greatest way to evolve into being the person you were meant to be. This new emergence of a supportive circle helped me slowly remove the fear of making mistakes. I felt that I could try new things free of judgement. This was the biggest catalyst for my growth as I found a new environment that supported my needs and strengths.
The following semester was eye opening as I embraced new experiences everyday that slowly pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I began to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. I got used to attending events and opening up to other people. I would occasionally worry about others judging me, but I found supportive friends who lifted me up on days where I’d feel unsure about myself. They challenged my self-belief that my thoughts weren’t worth listening to, and they valued my contributions on any topic of conversation.
Growing and becoming who I want to be is a journey that I’m still on to this day, but I know I’m on the right path. I realize that finding who we are is a life-long experience that is constantly changing with every life lesson. Everyone has their own pace at finding their own truth. We should as a community uplift one another as that little extra help might be significant. Finally getting the support I needed inspires me to be there for others. I now relish in opportunities where others feel the urge to reach out and build a connection. If I learned anything from college, it’s that building beautiful bonds with one another could create a kinder and better world for everyone.
Henry Huang is a 2021 summer intern from Plano, Texas. He is a rising junior at Penn State University currently studying Psychology and minoring in Kinesiology with hopes of becoming a sports psychologist. In his free time, you could find him watching sports, working out, or playing piano.