I have watched “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” twice. The first viewing occurred hours before hearing back from Penn, and the second months later after graduating from high school. In both instances, I experienced a wide variety of emotions and found myself reevaluating my identity, albeit in different ways.

Upon first watching the film based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, I immediately felt it gave new life to the characters I had read about and grown to love (even Emma Watson’s character with her not–so–convincing American accent). The movie perfectly illustrated the emotional ups and downs of each character, all of which inevitably come with being a teenager.

I immediately identified with the story’s protagonist, Charlie. Throughout the film, the habitually passive Charlie struggles to participate and gain self–acceptance. I naturally related to Charlie’s hesitancy. Throughout high school, I found it easy to hide in my schoolwork, using studying and extracurriculars as an excuse to sit on the sideline. As I watched Charlie challenge himself to make new friends and try new experiences, I made a promise to myself that night. Regardless of how the college application process turned out, I too would participate. Though I was not about to dress up like a character from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” I would learn to accept myself and make the most of what little time I had left in high school.

Fast–forward to one in the morning, five months later, my post–graduation–self sitting in bed with my laptop, too overcome with excitement to sleep. As I impulsively decided to rewatch the movie, I once again found myself invested in Charlie’s story. However, the second time around, I focused on a different element of the film, Charlie’s feeling of being “infinite.” Reflecting on the intense whirlwind that was second semester senior year, I took pride in the ways in which I had forced myself to participate and become part of my senior class. Simultaneously, I could not fight off an underlying feeling of sadness as it all came to an end. I empathized with Charlie as he struggled to hold onto each last moment with the friends he had only just come to know. As I prepared for my daunting first year of college, I found myself making another promise to appreciate the infinity of each moment.

Almost halfway through my sophomore year at Penn, I do not know under what occasion I will next watch “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” I do know that the film has permanently shaped my identity and my outlook on life. Though it is easy to get caught up Penn’s intense academic atmosphere and worry about what lies ahead, I remind myself to fight off my inhibition and appreciate everyday.

Check out our other "Living Our Lives in Film" Identity Essays:

Julia Wang

Hallie Brookman

Dan Spinelli

Rebecca Gever

Emily Johns


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