(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on July 8, 2010.)
At the age of three, my preschool teachers sat down with each student in the class and asked various questions: “What is your favorite food?” or “What is your favorite hobby?”
The last question directed toward each student was: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Now at the age of three, you can count on hearing some interesting answers – for example, my twin brother wanted to be a dragon. I don’t think it’s possible at this point but he might still be trying to achieve his childhood dream.
As for me, I thought of reaching for a far more attainable dream – I wanted to be a man.
This past Thursday, I celebrated my 21st birthday – to me, that day marked my passage into adulthood and I’m sure many would agree that 21 years is the pinnacle of a young adult’s life as well.
But what does it mean to be a man? Are there certain qualities and characteristics that make a man or are there certain tasks you have to complete to rightfully earn the distinct label of being called a man?
Many go to law school to become lawyers while others go to medical school to become doctors. Fortunately, you don’t have to go to school or pass a certain test to appropriately be called a man – but to me, there are certain principles you should abide by.
When times are hard, it may be all too easy to take a shortcut. No one said life would be easy – or fair – but to give up would only be giving in. Remember to stay persistent and to persevere in difficult times – that is being a man.
When telling a lie to make a story sound better, or make you as a person look more respectable in the eyes of others may seem like an easy way out, remember to keep your integrity and be honest – that is being a man.
When pointing the finger at somebody else may look a lot better than looking at your own problems and accepting the blame, take responsibility for your actions – that is being a man.
When looking to take care of yourself first and your own needs, remember to look out for others and be unselfish – that is being a man.
When revenge seems like the most plausible option after someone gives you the cold shoulder, remember to be respectful – that is being a man.
Like the late John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
And that quote definitely holds true. Be a man of character because those that judge and perceive you to be somebody else doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, the person that knows himself best is the one who sees a reflection in the mirror of a person far greater than the world will ever know.
So after 21 years, being a man is not so much reaching a certain age, acting tough or refusing to show any weakness. And it’s not a process that happens overnight or a label that can be earned by passing a test – it’s how you live your life.
Trevor is a student at USC and works for the Daily Trojan. He is interning with the Rafu for the summer. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.