I have always been atheist despite my parents' attempts to keep me slightly open minded or agnostic. I even tried writing a research paper my first year of college which would refute the evolutionary necessity for religion (I was SO wrong. I had to write the opposite instead.)
Anyway, I was seeking something to describe my values at about age 14. My favorite author then and now is Kurt Vonnegut. I realized his beliefs aligned with mine, or I guess mine with his. So over the following few years I did intermittent research and decided that humanism was my calling.
I had some experiences which opened my eyes to the abject poverty that exists even in my well to do community. I got to experience it firsthand when I moved out on my own. It struck me while visiting soup kitchens that the people around me were in a cyclical system, one with good intentions but that doesn't make real change.
Fast forward two years, I'm doing way better. I have a well paying job And I'm back in school. But I found myself bitching about the same issues, and internally I thought "do something!"
So I started volunteering with a group that advocates for abused and neglected kids in my city. By the end of my first training session I was gushing. The course focused not only on advocating for the children and their best interest, but also for the parents who sometimes were the abusers/neglectors. (Maybe mom can't take care of her house because she works four jobs. Maybe dad is violent because he has drug abuse or mental health issues and really needs help) Not only had I found reassurance that I held the correct philosophy, but I realized my profession needed to reflect that.
I just started my first course in Human Services. In class, my teacher (a social worker) described a recent case where her client had sexually abused her daughter amongst a thousand other things. My teacher ended up having to escort her client to identify her daughter's body. It was a suicide. There was no doubt in her client's mind that it was her fault, and my teacher did not disagree with her. What she asked was, How are you going to prevent the same thing from happening to you?
I thought to myself, that would be incredibly difficult. But I think I could support that person.
It's not easy. It's hard to keep my emotions from overpowering my beliefs. I live in Aurora, CO, where the Dark Night theater shooting happened. My cousin and his friends were there (nobody got hurt). For a few days there was no doubt in my mind that Holms should die. But I changed my mind. No matter how much I wanted it, it would not rectify the issue. Neither I nor anybody else has the right to take a life of another. That was the thinking that caused the death of twelve and injury to seventy. And it would be hard to help someone who without a doubt hurt or assaulted someone else. But that's why I'm here, I guess.
Anyways, sorry for the novel, guys. Hope that was the kind of thing you were hoping for.
Tl;dr Kurt Vonnegut and volunteer work have completely shaped me as an individual.