Finding Yourself Outside the Flow

When’s the last time you watched your favorite childhood movie? The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Aladdin, Cinderella, and Hercules—they’ll all be cherished as some of the most influential films of our childhoods, at the very least. There’s no need, however, for them to be left behind in our elementary school years. We should re-watch these movies as young adults because we need to dive one league deeper to find that they function on more levels than we could originally comprehend. Finding Nemo is about more than a fish trying to find his son: It is about finding oneself outside the flow.

During these four years at Boston College, as we search for jobs/study for tests/party until the early hours of the morning, we have so much to do and so little time to do it. The job market is becoming exponentially more competitive—which is why we go to college in the first place—and we are told that we must adjust. We keep raising the bar for ourselves, but at the same time, we also are striving to preserve those things that we feel are at the core of our beings.

Thankfully, our culture provides a simple path to “achieve success” so that our collective can be “the greatest on Earth”: Be an American. A contributor to the National Museum of American History’s website, A More Perfect Union, says that being an American is “being brave, being proud of this Country, and being confident that we will succeed. Being an American is an honor not a privilege.” These things are true, but while we try to succeed and be Americans, we lose sight of those things which make life worth living in the first place because the “American” current is so strong.

I recently re-watched Pixar’s Finding Nemo with my younger sister. If you know the movie, then you know Crush, the surfer-dude sea turtle who rescued Marlin from the jellyfish field. We are introduced to the chilled-out bro-turtle when Marlin wakes and finds that he is traveling through the East Australian Current as he searches for his son, Nemo. In this scene, there are thousands of turtles floating in a massive, foamy, cylindrical current as they make their way around Australia. Although Marlin thinks that the EAC is where he wanted to be, and indeed it is because it will provide a form of transportation that will efficiently get him to his son, Crush tells him that the current is going to sweep them past Sydney—specifically 42 Wallaby Way.

Marlin has two options. First, he can ride with the subdued turtles until he gets close enough to Sydney, exerting little to no effort while hanging on to Crush’s shell. He risks, however, missing the city completely because the water will be moving so quickly that a single extra second “in the current” can dispel him toward a completely different part of the Australian coast, requiring even more effort to make it to Sydney. The second option is riskier: Marlin can leave the protection of the current somewhat immediately and propel himself into the vast blue ocean beyond.

The East Australian Current represents our lives. At BC (and practically every other similar institution) we are learning the tools to figuratively maintain our position inside the current—to be part of the workforce—while experimenting to find where we fit best instead of finding what best fits us. After all, college is about preparing us for the real world, which is synonymous for the working world.

But currents have no end: They go around and around. Going with the flow is ultimately detrimental to our personal well being because “the flow” is a stream of thoughts/actions/norms/values that ensnare us all. We lose our innate sense of individuality. Many of us, myself included, rarely venture outside the current because the emphasized and innate aspects of our culture—money, power, prestige, influence—are goals that we can measure and concretely obtain. These alone can give us a purpose and something to strive for.

We tell ourselves that the current is literally going to take us around the world while, in actuality, the current shows us very little of it. We need to remove ourselves from its conventional flow and swim towards the open water, even though it represents the unknown. Especially at BC, where entities such as the BC Bubble exist, the social constructs and pre-paved pathways are overwhelming, and so incredibly easy to get caught in. The college system separates its student body into a preconceived and regularly enforced system of majors and minors that will “most definitely” lead us down a path that will make us happy. A college degree is the new high school diploma, and a college degree today is necessary to be a valued member of society.

Unconventionality and going against the flow are not guarantees for success because they are riskier and harder than the alternative. It is a necessary step, however, should you want to experience the world instead of passing it by behind a veil of bubbles and white water. I originally wanted to end by saying “Just keep swimming,” then realized this was also indoctrinated American culture. “Just keep swimming” tells us that we need to keep a goal ahead of us and not stop swimming until we get achieve it, whereas the real question lies in what we decide that goal should be. Removing ourselves from the current is the only way that we can find out who we are. I guarantee you that when you find those things that excite you, “first you [will be] like ‘whoa,’ and we [will be] like ‘whoa,’ and you [will be] like ‘whoa.’”

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor