Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Editor's note: Due to the Christmas break the Verbatim columns which normally appear on Mondays will be printed in the Community section until the School section resumes Jan. 11.

It was the beginning of week four away from home, and I was in desperate need of sleep. I missed my puppy, my best friend, and my mom's homecooked meals (dorm food really just doesn't compare). The last thing I wanted to do was meet and make friends with 40 hormonal strangers that I would be sleeping, eating, breathing, and performing with over the next week -- yet there I was, sitting across from a girl who I had never met before, making awkward small talk.

Since we were both in our first hours at the Indiana University Percussion Summer Academy, our talk inevitably revolved around music, and eventually led to which colleges we hoped to attend. As I mentioned that I was not sure my SAT scores were high enough for a very prestigious school, my new friend casually mentioned her SAT score. As my score was comparable, I casually admitted mine in the same breath. As I later think back on that conversation, it never ceases to amaze me how "civilly" we each made our status known. As humans, we scoff at the idea of being similar to dogs, who sniff each other, well, to make one another's acquaintance; in reality, we are no different.

Whether it is a little girl talking about how strong her daddy is, a middle school boy bragging about how fast he can run a mile, or a man mentioning his summer home just a few too many times, the message each wishes to reveal is the same: I have succeeded. Be happy for me. Congratulate me. Be jealous of me. Ask me how I did it. Tell me I am worth something.

Why, in our modern culture, must we constantly have other's conformation of our worth? As a high school student, I am constantly surrounded by teenagers worried about what others are thinking. We continually ask ourselves questions -- Are my abs hard enough? Are my thighs small enough? Did I do well enough on my math test? Do I drive a new enough car? Our own, self-negating answers to these inner inquiries fail to build much needed confidence in our own abilities. When we were younger we had the idea that when we were adults, we would know how to solve any problems we had; we were sure that we would be full of confidence.

As I am fast approaching the time that I will be an adult living on my own, I am fully aware that we will always face uncertainties, no matter how mature we become. After 18 years, I still struggle with the degrading voices that come more often from within than from others.

There are days I question everything about myself: I wonder why in the world I am in advanced classes, since I always seem to be working harder than the person next to me, and we receive the same grade. When I see a girl who is smaller than I am, I question my body shape, and consequently, my self worth. After a particularly bad practice session, I ask myself why I was possessed to apply to some of the most prestigious music schools in the country. Although these self-deprecating thoughts only come in moments of weakness, why do they come at all?

Must we be so surrounded, so intimidated, by the "perfection" we see in magazines and movies that we lose all awareness of who we are? Must we constantly litter our conversations with fortuitous mentions of our latest accomplishment, just to receive justification that we are indeed individuals of worth? Each person has brought something unique to the world; each man or woman has limitless potential, but we often hold ourselves back with uncertainty. All we have to do is remember what we are worth; with that knowledge, we cannot fail.

This article is the opinion of Hannah Romberg. Romberg is a senior at Soldotna High School.

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