Self Expression Essay

There is a moment in everybody’s life when they come to realize that some things are not always as they seem - when they step into the light and see something for how it truly is. In Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”, he writes of this very same experience. In the story, he writes of a character who is in this “cave” with others and he sees shadows and light, but he never dares to venture out of it. One day, however, he does end up leaving the cave and experiences a whole new world, or as one could deduce, a whole new way of looking at the world. In life, every single person has gone through a moment like this at one time or another. I myself have experienced something like this. I had a moment where I “woke up” to see the world as it truly was, rather than how I thought it would be. When I came to discern the realities of the world. It can be shocking, heartbreaking, or absolutely wonderful. It all depends on what one experiences, and how they perceive it. How I was before, what happened to cause me to change, and how I am now has been an eighteen year process, and is still continuing.

I grew up in a tight-knit family. My views on the world were that of happiness and light, and I had no fears of people. I saw everyone as a friend, and I felt safe wherever I went. There was no looking over my shoulder for possible assailants, or fear of going into the dark. Monsters were made up of gruesome creatures that had big scary teeth, twelve eyes, stood eight feet tall, and resided in my closet to keep me in my bed at night. Violence was something that was not known to me in my youth. It was like Marjane Satrapi’s story, “The Veil”. She writes of how, when she was a child, she did not know the oppression of “the veil”, or what it meant to wear it, until she grew older and was forced to wear a veil that covered her completely. I was like this with my ignorance of violence. I did not know the horrors that an individual could dole out, but when I did, it was a change of a lifetime. 

My “emerging from the cave” happened when I was in fifth grade. It was when I began to truly see what I was so blind to before. I am thankful I was made blind to what people were capable of. I do not think I would be the same person I am now if I was a witness to what young children are experiencing today. I remember I was watching tv, and suddenly the news came on with Breaking News. The New York Times wrote, “A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people — 20 of them children — in an attack in an elementary school in central Connecticut on Friday”(Barron, Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut). There had been a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Conneticuit. I remember watching all the little kids and staff of the school walking out in a straight line, holding on to one another, and their faces horror stricken as most of the children had no idea what was happening. The parents were all frantic as they tried to find their kid and hoped that their child was okay. For a lot of families, the kiss they gave their kids as they left for school was the last time they would see them. As an eleven year old, I was able to comprehend what was happening. I knew that everyone was sad over this, and I realized that this was not something that normally happens. My parents grew up in a time where this sort of thing did not happen. They could leave the house with the doors unlocked and their parents could let them run around the neighborhood without a care or thought in the world. The society I came to know was not the world they knew. However, I did not realize my naivety until that day in fifth grade when I came to understand that my definition of “monster” was the farthest thing from the truth.

Now, as I finish high school, I look back on what I have learned. I look back on my days when I was still “in the cave”. When I was safe in my own little world where there was no violence in schools, or movie theaters, or other public places. A time when little kids did not have to buy shields to put in their backpacks to protect themselves against flying bullets. USA Today quoted Yasir Sheikh in saying that, “There's a heightened level of awareness," he said. "I liken it to this: There's a greater chance of people buying a security system if there is a break-in in your neighborhood”(Haller, More Parents are Buying Bullet-Resistant Backpacks to Help Keep Kids Protected After Shootings). This shows that even parents have come to realize that this violence is a common occurance. Just like Nancy Mairs said in her story “On Being a Cripple”, “After several years I was satisfied with my adjustment. I had suffered grief and fury and terror, I thought, but now I was at ease with my lot”(Mairs, 451). Indeed, I am now much more aware. I am aware of the fact that there are scary people out in the world and terrifying acts of violence are now just another story on the evening news. I have, unfortunately, become desensitized to violence. My whole generation has become immune to these acts, to where we do not even blink when a new school shooting has happened. The Arts and Social Science Journal states, “The theory of desensitization is most easily applied to violent media. Constant repetitions of violence in the media make people jaded towards violence. The reaction becomes less prominent because as viewers of media are used to seeing explosions, blood and guts on a regular basis”(Iqbal, Role of Media Creating Desensitization among Viewers Related to Terrorist Acts). However, just because I am desensitized to violence does not mean that I enjoy seeing it, or that I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I could do something about it, because more than anything I do. My heart breaks every time I see the headline that says “mass shooting”, or “another shooting has occurred”. Only now I am not surprised, or shocked. I am just full of sorrow. Now, I am preparing myself for the world I will soon be thrust into, a little bit wiser, and a lot more angry.

How I was before, what happened to cause me to change, and how I am now has been an eighteen year process, and is still continuing. As a child, being inside my little “cave” was wonderful. I was comfortable and I felt safe, yet I knew I could not stay there forever. I am thankful for when I stepped out into the light. For when I did, it was truly terrifying, but it was also the most enlightening experience that I have had yet. As Plato writes in “The Allegory of the Cave”, “But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and seen only with effort...”(Plato, 572). I know I have not experienced the most challenging thing that I will encounter in my life, but I think I will be able to tackle it head on. My coming out of the “cave” was really one of the most educational things that I could have done to better prepare myself for my future. Everybody has a time in their life when they step out of their “cave” and into the light. This was mine, and I will never be the same again.

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