Growing up in South Boston definitely had a great influence on my life. As I entered my teenage years, I began to identify with my surroundings more and more. I found myself wearing certain clothes, listening to certain music, and even the vocabulary I communicated with was not my own. Rather, it was something that was impressed upon me from my peers.
This society that I lived in made a great impact on even my outlook on life. The people I associated with did not have any aspiration to attend college when they graduated High School, so I found going to college less attractive. Even though my parents pushed me toward higher learning, they were not as effective as the influence of my peers. The reason for that is simple. I spent more time with my peers and I held them in high regard. Therefore, I valued their opinions more when it came to the things that mattered most to me.
When I was a sophomore in High School, my life took a sharp turn. My Father landed a good paying job and within no time, my parents started looking for a house in the upper middle class part of town. Sure enough, before I started my Junior year we had settled into a new home on the opposite side of town and the people and surroundings felt very strange to me.
When I started school that fall, the first thing I noticed was that everyone wore different clothes and listened to different music. I thought to myself, "Great. Now I am surrounded by the people I once made fun of." I went further and believed that there was no way I would ever dress like them or listen to the same music.
After about 6 months of attending this new school and living in this new neighborhood, I found myself once again wearing new clothes and listening to different music. It was almost like this society which surrounded me was really the deciding factor in those things I would desire. It is kind of like if you are with ten people who all enjoy poetry, you begin to find an interest in it as well.
As an adult, I learned the reason for this. The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that all of our actions are the result of either our genetics or the environment that surrounds us. We have no control over our genetics, and as children, we have very little control over our environment. As we age, however, there is one factor where we can make a choice: which society will we place ourselves in and allow to influence us?
Whether we like it or not, the society will create in us certain desires for those things that are valued by the society in general. So if you are a scientist and want to be influenced by great scientific thinkers, then the best place to go is a place where there are others with the same ambitions in life. Likewise, if you aspire to be a musician, you will probably choose not to associate with scientists but with other musicians.
If we recognize the power of this choice, then we can use it to help us achieve our goals in life. If you are struggling to reach your goals, take a look around you. Do others value that same goal? If not, where can you find others with similar aspirations? If you can do that, you will be immeasurably closer to achieving your dreams. In the long run, making a conscious choice about your environment is the first and most important step towards changing yourself.