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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Freeman: The Effect of Visualization

Actions and opinions must reflect one’s values.

As a child, I always pictured sayings in my head. When people claimed something was the “best thing since sliced bread,” I’d picture sandwiches being made between two huge half-loaves. For some reason, “break a leg” was a chair, lopsided due to a snapped leg. But a more significant phrase had a very specific picture, and it was one I had to face in many important moments of my life. The phrase was “let it go,” and the picture was a small girl hanging off the edge of a cliff.

This image, and the idea of letting go that it created in my mind, caused me to hang on to many things throughout my childhood and into my young adult life. I felt stuck in lifestyles I no longer wanted: I held on to ideas that I no longer believed in; and I was left confused when my thought process matured, but my actions did not follow. I saw letting go of anything as a purely negative decision. There was no turning back, and no predictable outcomes. Letting go was a loss of much more than whatever was being released.

I continued to support beliefs and values that I had grown out of, for fear of losing my idea of myself in the process. This caused me to become complacent in the progression of my opinions and concerns, a complacency that stuck painfully with me as I entered Dartmouth. I strived to retain as much of who I had been in high school as I could, even though I had fully outgrown her.

Holding me back was the fall off the cliff, and to what? When I look back now, I don’t know what I was scared of falling into. That which scared me most could have been that I couldn’t see below the drop. If I didn’t know exactly who I’d be without these things, where I’d fall when I departed from the edge of the peak, why change? Why stop doing the things that I felt defined me, the things that were normal and natural? I decided not to let go. I would not allow myself to fall to an unknowable result.

Throughout my first year at Dartmouth, I struggled with defining my priorities. I had aspirations for myself that I could not achieve if I continued to concentrate on old habits and old values, but whenever I came close to change I remembered falling off the cliff. I convinced myself that I would keep everything and still succeed: I would expand my horizons academically while still holding on to the high school girl with whom I had become so comfortable.

My persuasion did not get me far. As my struggle started to affect my academics and my relationship with those closest to me, I realized that something had to give. I was stuck between a life and personality I had loved, and a new world showing me the person I wanted to become.

To this day, I remember the exact moment I gained clarity in this inner conflict. Speaking with a close friend about indecisiveness, she said to me: “People need to let things go. It weighs them down.”

Weighed down? I was confused. I pictured the girl holding on to the side of a mountain, and added a heavy bag to her back –– this still didn’t make sense. I drew a blank, and a new thought popped into my mind. I was walking down a hallway, holding way too many books. I had taken more than I could carry out of my middle school locker, and I wasn’t sure how I would make it to class with it all. As I turned a corner, I tripped, and the books came tumbling out of my arms and on to the ground. I was surprised when I felt relief as I looked upon the mess. I had let them go. Although I did have a rather large mess on my hands, it was manageable. I realized that letting go wasn’t about losing my life, my identity or my sense of place in this world. Letting go meant easing the weight I was holding in my hands.

After my realization, I was able to do this for the first time by allowing myself to pick apart each “priority” I thought I had –– and if it turned out I didn’t value it, I finally let it go. This enabled my opinions and actions to become what I believed, unaffected by what the people around me thought or valued. More importantly, as my beliefs progressed, my actions and opinions followed.

What one values directly influences the opinions they form, and they must be open to changing these values –– and, in turn, opinions –– as they hear new facts. One should not support ideologies that they don’t think are true or right, simply because of their political or personal identity; and this can only occur when one does not examine the reasoning behind their values. Or, in my case, when they are too afraid to let them go. However, there is never a reason to be afraid of letting go of beliefs or habits, because one is not defined by the things they prioritize. Rather, one is defined by what they believe is true or right. Through self-examination, their actions will always reflect this.