Being Unique

Being unique is easy when you’re 5. There aren’t really a normal set of expectations for accomplishments at that age. As long as you can walk and somewhat articulate yourselves, the parents don’t worry. If you do something marginally impressive, like being able to stand on one foot instead of two, you get tagged with the word “unique.” In elementary school, I was unique because I loved to read and read at an advanced level; read: every other Asian ever.

“You’re so awesome, Michelle!” my grandmother cooed to me at consistent intervals when raising me. Even though you’d think she’s seen everything from being a teacher for 40 years, even grandmotherhood gives the harshest eye rose-colored glasses. But, by golly, I believed that woman, because to me, she was made out of the same stuff she prescribed. Before I’d even get out of bed around 10, she’d have finished mowing the lawn and playing with my cats. My grandma was the one who taught me how to somersault and do cartwheels not by instruction, but by demonstration.

Even through high school, I could pass off as unique, even though it was getting harder and harder to do so. Freshman year, I was The Freshman on Varsity. Junior year, I won 5th at state. I was still a member of a small niche and socially awkward hipster enough to not pass off as any other giggling mass of teenage girl. My stellar grades further distinguished me from others, despite the slight depression of social status. It was no Jake Adams though (name changed), who was my year and was already earning six-figures from his self-started programming business. But that was only one abnormality so my jealousy was kept at bay.

College, however, I ran into difficulties. In a pool of 40,000 other people my age, I suddenly fell to average or slightly above-average at most. During this group interview for a ‘roided-up version of Campus Tour Guide, my achievements fell silent to those of my peers. I heard about people who are already millionaires, people who have already started businesses.

How are we ever to compete?


A few years after freshman year, I drove myself crazy trying to find my “niche.” Even blogs are told to specialize in top “niches” so that you can distinguish yourself from all of them, so that you can capitalize on your uniqueness.

Well, I hate to be pessimistic, but I’m feeling more and more like it these days. I like to think of it as being realistic, but maybe that’s just my residual optimism…

The search for being unique and for individualism, one that many people pursue may be falsely guided. This mindset is wrong in that people believe they will find happiness in being unique. Some aren’t wrong, but many are. I believe more strongly about chasing what you love.

In fact, chasing what you love can be the one thing that makes you unique. Happiness gets so overlooked that it’s surprising to encounter people who love everything about what they do. They love their current place in life.

Many people believe that they don’t change; that their likes and dislikes will be the same ten years later as it is now. But really think about that. And then think about the flexibility of your life right now. If your goals have changed without you realizing, can you pick up and start again?

It takes courage, I will admit that. But it’s entirely necessary. You know that mid-life crisis that everyone seems to head towards? It’s because people never reevaluate their place in life and compare it to what they thought they’d be doing by now or what they would rather be doing. A man I know has always been adamant that he hates reading. Until he picked up a biography. Now he can’t get enough of those books! It takes a while to figure yourself out—good thing we have about 70-80 years to do so.

But getting that job at the end of college, no matter how it may feel like it, is not the end-goal of your life. It is not to go to work every day, 9-5, come home and party. How about developing yourself more? Picking up more hobbies? Maybe you’ll find that thing that defines you, makes your live worth living earlier than during your mid-life crisis. Keep discovering yourself, and make a promise to always change your circumstances to fit what would make you happy.



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