In high school, I was a good student at an academically-focused school, and it was generally expected that girls ‘like me’ went to university. So I went.
It did not go well. I nearly flunked out, and was miserable for a year.
It took a near breakdown and months of therapy to realize that my big mistake was not failing at university; it was failing to realize it was the wrong path for me at that time.
The lesson of that experience, and others like it, has stuck with me: I’m not everybody else. I should not mindlessly do what’s expected, or what most other people are doing.
I must make my own choices based on myself and my situation.
Because of this, I now have a reputation for being ‘different’. I live downtown in a family of mostly suburb dwellers. In a consumer-driven culture, I don’t like to shop. Etc.
Some people say things like, “Oh, that Nadine! She just likes to be different!”, often with an uncomfortable chuckle.
This makes it sound like I’m different out of some perverse desire to stand out.
But I’m not ‘being’ different. I don’t ‘like’ it. I just am different, whether I like it or not, and have embraced that and what it means.
I think, to one degree or another, this is true of most of us. We’re each different, and should each make choices according to what makes sense for us.
Discouraging difference, mocking it, or acting like it’s a quirky choice, pressures people to fit in; to avoid independent thought; to not explore alternatives.
It makes being different a daily fight. It’s not fair, and it’s not good for us; individually or as a society. Difference is a fact, whether we like it or not, so why not like it?
Embracing difference and factoring it in to our choices leads to better choices, more realized potential, and happier people. Let’s start embracing it more, and quashing it less.