The Oracle

The Reflection in the Mirror

Stagnation has a bad reputation.

Matt Jacquez, Senior Collumnist

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My name is Allahmath. I insisted differently on my first day here. It’s a weird name —  without fail it invites a series of “whats” and “come agains” and “whys.” My pre-college days were full of mispronunciations and verbal takebacks. I’ve had my name my whole life, but I made the decision to go by Matt on a whim.

People want to separate and isolate pieces of their lives when given the chance. We all have regrets and parts of ourselves that we would rather change. And college, we’re told, is all about change. I remember the first question asked of me in Piper Preview vividly: what is my name? In a split-second I played through the future sloppy roll-calls of Allahmath and answered with Matt. It was hasty. It was practically random. But there was a reason. My birth name was more to me than a name or a moniker — Allahmath was the past. Allahmath represented every piece of myself that I wanted different, each regret and failure tied up in a neat little package. In that split-second I decided I was too stubborn to back down, and I know that’s the side of Allahmath that never left.

People go into college with a certain expectation. They have their own parameters for the money they spend, how they want classes to be, and what they want to be doing in their spare time. As unpredictable as it is, it’s an inevitable thought. It’s equally likely that people get let down.

Matt did a lot this year. He took trips around the country, to many states. He joined orgs, volunteered, made friends, took home trophies, wrote a book and overall just had a lot of fun. And I don’t mean to be pretentious. It pays to be generally proud with what you’ve done. At the same time, it’s important to realize that it’s okay to have faults and shortcomings – and in particular for myself – by acknowledging that we are flawed.

I know that I behaved in a way that I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t myself. In pursuit of change this year, I’ve refused to come to terms with who I am and what I want. I’ve definitely lost connections, acquaintances, and friends by doing that. If I wanted to relax, I said, “Matt, you aren’t going out enough.” Or if a task appeared daunting I would chant, “Get over it.” I was confused because my expectations clashed with who I was. I know it’s pointlessly self-deprecating: if we are in charge of our own health, don’t we have a responsibility to be kind and understanding to ourselves?

There are always better choices in life. Lesser-regrets. Almost-but-not-quite-facepalm-moments. We all wish better of ourselves and berate the reflection in the mirror from time to time. And I’ll be honest with you – I still don’t know how to stop. That mental talk will always run its mouth. “Matt” is the ideal reflection to me, and he refuses to let me hear the end of his spiel. If you combine this with the typical college stressors, like the cost of school, the homework, the drama and the stress, it’s not a fun time. You come to associate self-time with wasted time, and time spent improving yourself as the only conceivable metric. It’s a game where you’re always playing from behind.

So let’s be real here: expectations can suck. But it’s unrealistic to forget expectations, because they’re necessary to have any forthought at all. It’s why I’m perfectly fine with a nickname, because a bit of expectation is a part of who I am. While it’s customary to end on a note of finality, or with a solution, or with call to action, I’ll end with a little confession instead. When I sat down for the first time in my first college class, it was a bright, sunny day, and we were all making plans to volunteer and innocuously pick weeds in an abandoned lot. When we returned to class, I was genuinely happy. Not because any of it was new, but as I looked at everyone’s faces, I realized that a lot in life was the same as it always was.

 

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The Reflection in the Mirror