The unstable boundary between adolescence and adulthood may be one of the most confusing parts of life. I also experienced agonizing growing pains in return for my becoming an adult. In the end, all the countless worries that disturbed my mind were actually parts of the way to identify an answer to one ultimate problem: my identity.

Unfortunately, and quite naturally, the answer to who I am did not easily show up. Instead, harsh failures and inner conflicts were waiting for me. Without even knowing it, I was already encountering my first problem.

When I put my first steps forward in life as a college prep student, my own battle began as well. The process of preparation for university admissions required stricter self-management, compared to my usual days. That process ignited the fight between two different sides of myself: the one who wanted to remain complacent versus the me who wished to advance myself. I had to taste more bitterness of defeat because my ingrained bad habits seemed to stay with me forever. As I experienced more failures, my efforts to win myself over meant nothing to me. Then I came across the book Demian by Herman Hesse, and its famous quote made me take the next step. “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world.”

The bird fighting against the wall of an egg must also fight against the darkness inside. In the darkness, the bird continues to strike the egg with its beak without anyone recognizing its efforts. When the bird finally destroys the egg, a splendid light celebrates its victory over the lonely battle. I substituted myself with the bird. The process of destroying the old me was truly a challenge. Although my fight to be born again as a better person seemed endless, it eventually came to an end with the greatest jubilation. The answer was to believe in myself and stand firm.

As soon as I arrived at the answer, which was to have confidence, I faced the next problem: How to achieve confidence? At first, I concluded that confidence is acquired when I made my best efforts at every moment. Then, I defined making the best effort as doing what everyone else was doing. For instance, decreasing my sleeping time and studying without rest even until late in the night. I requested everyone else’s efforts of myself and of course I failed to adapt to such sudden changes. Every time I was not able to make it, I always blamed myself because I felt that I was left behind, alone. Then, again, I came across few lines from the book Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. “You are someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness.” I realized that I had forgotten the true meaning behind the answer that I found. Trusting myself is not following others. Each one of us is unique and so am I. The answer was to admit my uniqueness. Then I reached my fundamental question: who am I, and how am I different from others?

The countless pain and anguish of those days often drove me to despair. However, those dark ages indeed came to an end with the brilliant glimpse of answers to who I truly am. I got a hint that I could find myself in the field of art because I express my thoughts and emotions through my artworks. Definitely, more challenges will come to compete for a better answer to who I am. However, these growing pains continuously strengthened my resolve not to lose myself in the severe hardships of this world. Now, I am looking forward to undergoing the next growing pain, to find another new me in the field of art.

Soo Min Oh is a sophomore majoring in Graphic Design at the School of Visual Arts. She was born and raised in South Korea. “Erik Erikson wrote, ‘In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.’ I believe there is no true existence without self-exploration.”