The other day in one of my classes, we were discussing the philosophical problem of being versus non-being or, in other words, what exists and what doesn’t.

The philosopher Parmenides states that humans cannot access what is in a state of non-being: in other words, we can’t see, talk about or even think about what doesn’t exist, which already sounds problematic. Reflecting on this subject, I would like to think about how many times I have wanted a part of myself to slip into that state of non-being, of non-existence.

When I was younger, I wanted to enter this state of not-being, but not in the sense that I wanted to stop existing. What I desired so many times was for one particular part of me to stop being what is was, or to disappear just enough for other people to stop noticing it. My accent, level in academics, and skills in music and theater were all made fun of greatly at one point or another.

If you were that awkward kid in middle school who got picked on constantly because of your appearance, hobbies or way of thinking, then you probably wanted those other kids to stop picking on you. Perhaps you went as far as to say that you wanted to be completely different, so that no one would make fun of you ever again. Maybe you changed your appearance, way of talking, hobbies or even personality.

You wanted that geeky, awkward, undesired part of yourself to slip into non-existence, to be forgotten for good by those who detested you for it, even when what you wanted to disappear wasn’t actually bad.

Of course, it’s completely normal to go through changes in tastes, appearance and so on during your school years and beyond. These changes are normal, until they become forced. No matter how important you think those people are or how scared they make you feel, you can’t force yourself to change because of them. Plus, trying to ignore what they think isn’t always easy. Usually, when a person is fixed on how much they dislike your favorite artist, or your clothes, or the way you speak, it’s hard for them to stop focusing on those dislikes whenever they see you, no matter how hard you try to hide the things they hate from them. That should make them worry, not you.

College is a great place to leave the people and places you’d rather forget in a state of almost-non-existence. You can start over and completely reinvent your life. And while I think that’s a great thing to do, I think it’s crucial to remember that there will still be people who think differently from you. There will be disagreements, and perhaps even harsh criticisms or insults. Just remember that you are not those cruel words. You are not a person that deserves to descend into non-being. We all deserve a chance to be everything good we know exists inside of us, and nothing should make us think otherwise.