At seventeen I have discovered the secret to my own subjective life: I am an ego addict. All it took for me to get to this conclusion was to spend time in a psych ward and contemplate my entire existence. I realized after some time with no external distractions why I haven’t felt like I truly belonged on this planet for a long time: I am a child that likes a variety of things from sports to music, and I have let other people’s stigma direct my every move for far too long.
I think I had the perfect childhood. I grew up for a while without a cellphone, and learned to appreciate the finer things in life such as books, fresh air, and family before getting sucked into the abyss that is the internet… and then things got weird.
During that weird and wonderful part of youth where certain emotions were running rampant, and questions were buzzing in my head about sex, drugs, and everything in between, I turned to my phone for answers. Not for any particular reason other than it was easier than asking my parents. Let’s face it: kids don’t want to have “the talk” no matter how good the parents are, and there is so much accessibility with the internet. What I found during my self-education challenged every fiber of my then-christian soul. It was the most traumatizing thing I have ever been through… and I have been through hell and back.
Trauma is one of those highly subjective words, but I can tell you that the internet scarred me more than any “real” thing I have been through. I self-educated because I was a curious kid. What I found were grotesque sexual videos, real-life terrorism acts, and unlimited information about a multitude of drugs. It sent me into this multiple-year downward spiral, because I kept a lot of my discoveries quiet. I was too scared to speak up about anything, because I saw how people were treated on the internet, and the topics I wanted to talk about were so taboo.
The internet showed me the best and worst of the world before I knew what it meant to be myself. I became an addict to a lot of things from porn to drug education. I loved the idea of drugs, because I learned that not all drugs are objectively bad. I learned about the benefits and cultural uses for certain compounds, but stayed quiet, because each time I would even try to bring up the topic, I was shut down.
A current societal issue is stigma. Religion, guns, mental health, and addiction are just some topics that have stigmas attached to them. I argue that the one big stigma in our society is around an open conversation. My generation is pretty open-minded, but I can feel stigma in the air because of how society has been taught to fear things. We as a society are taught to fear strangers. We are taught to fear drugs. We are taught to fear one “god.” No matter what the topic, everyone has their own stigma. But why? What’s so bad about being human?
My big thing right now is being open-minded and mindful because I’m so aware of the negativity I have let build up in my mind throughout my seemingly short life. I can clearly see the reason for my sense of loss has been a collection of stigmas I let control my mind. I feared the world around me because I feared myself. But I’m tired of not being human, and I’m tired of shutting my mouth when I have valid things to say. Fearing the world around us is not how we’re going to solve anything. It’s time to break every stigma by speaking out, not shutting people down. I don’t care what you believe so long as you’re open to a conversation.