More Than Just a Definition

Fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality is the definition of self-realization, but it’s more than just a definition. Self-realization is about realizing a need for change in one’s environment, one’s attitude, or a change internally for the finding of one’s self. This theme is prevalent in “My First Conk” by Malcolm X, “By Any Other Name” by Santha Rama Rau, and Jeremy and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass.

Self-realization calls for changes in self, environment, and attitude in the lives of Malcolm X, Permila, and Jeremy Fink. Malcolm X in “My First Conk” realized that conking (the straightening of curly or kinky hair) his hair was violating his identity as a black man, so he changed his actions to stop conking his hair. Malcolm went through hard work to make his hair straight and stated that he “literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair.” Later he realizedhe had joined a group of brainwashed people who think, “black people are ‘inferior’–and white people ‘superior’–that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look ‘pretty’ by white standards.” Malcolm found himself dug in a pit of self-doubt and shame, but only with time did he notice his mistake of conforming.

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Through this self-realization Malcolm found his true identity as a black man, and he realized he had sacrificed himself in orderto “fit in” to a world not meant for him. Like Malcolm in “My First Conk,” Premila in “By Any Other Name” realized herself conforming to the ways of the white people and being discriminated against at school, but unlike Malcolm she changed her surroundings by never going back. After her first test, Premila walked into her sister’s classroom and said, “We’re going home for good.” Later, Premila tells her mom that the teacher added extra desks in between the Indian kids and Premila said, “‘She [the teacher] said it was because Indians cheat. So I don’t think we should go back to that school.

‘” Premila found herself lost in a world of discrimination and hatred, so she changed her surroundings by never going back to the school again. She didn’t want the continuous ridiculement, the white people sandwiches, or the white people clothes; she wanted the comfort of her home, the love of her mother, and the taste of curry. Premila’s self-realization called for change for the betterment of her and her sister’s lives to be the Indian kids they were meant to be. Unlike Malcolm and Premila, Jeremy in Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life realized a need for change in attitude. He realized that the true meaning of life doesn’t have to do with possessions, but it deals with friends, family, and love. His attitude and perception of life changed through his major self-realization.

After reading a letter from and opening a box from his dad who passed away, he wrote on a sheet of paper “Rock #1: From the day I realized that love is stronger than death and people you barely know can amaze you, 13.” This realization gave him the bravery to try something new by riding the subway by himself, and he thinks “I’m feeling so brave, maybe I’ll surprise Mom tonight and have cauliflower or asparagus or —cringe—beets at dinner.” Jeremy’s realization that love trumps any worldly thing changes his attitude and gives him bravery. Self-realization comes in many forms, but it always calls for a change. Malcolm X realized his mistake and changed himself.

Premila realized the discrimination against her and changed her surroundings, and Jeremy realized love is stronger than death and changed his attitude. The common theme across the stories in “My First Conk,” “By Any Other Name,” and in Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life is that self-realization causes change for the better to be who we are meant to be. In the end, self-realization is more than just a definition; it is a moment where someone realizes the need for change in his or her life. As an author Heath L. Buckmaster once said, “Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” Overall, self-realization is a change to be who you were meant to be.