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.


3 Ways Living Off-Campus is Awesome

I’m not going to lie. The first two years at college were a struggle for me, compounded by the feeling that I shouldn’t have been struggling. And, even though my third and final year has barely been off to a start yet, there have been definite ways that life here has been improving.

And so, I present you just a few things, in no particular order.

1. My own room
I feel like I’ve been brainwashed for the last two years. Yeah! Having a roommate is great! It means I’m never alone! You could watch scary movies without fearing the dark corners of your room. You would never sink into that sad little life of people living on their own. You’d never develop your own quirks, like walking around naked. And colleges would reinforce that belief by making it at least $2000 harder for people to want single rooms, so we would all convince ourselves that this is what we want. An opportunity to live with one of your best friends for 8 months.

What was I thinking?? Having a room to myself absolutely rocks. After the grueling 30-minutes day of interactions with friends all over the place, having a place to retreat to like a little hermit is a godsend. It’s part of the reason why college kids are so tired! Never being alone and not having a place to recharge is exhausting. And, no one knows what you do in your room. If you want to partake in some weird little ritual you like to do at home, you can finally do it at school!

Have I sold it to you yet? Good.

2. Cooking for myself
What? You mean I get to decide what I want? No more refreshing the dorm hall menu obsessively to see if it’s Chicken Broccoli Bake day? I can cook it myself every goddamn day if I wanted to? Hell yes! Just set me loose at any nearby grocery store and I will go crazy. It’s like a buffet of cheaper eat-out food that you have to prepare yourself! No more paying for the too-expensive meal plan that was set because they thought everyone ate like a HIPPO, which I sometimes did because I felt like I was obligated to. No more unhealthy delicious food that resulted in the 5023894 pounds I’ve gained since senior year of High School. No more. I’m free!

3. A home away from home
Despite how they market it, a dorm room is exactly that: a dorm room. It’s a little jail cell disguised and furnished to make people believe that they can reside in it for long periods of time (can you tell how much I hate dorms yet?). And, except for your freshman year dorm hall, there is no sense of community or there is too much sense of community, which makes the first part of that sentence kind of null, doesn’t it? Like your permanent residence, living off-campus gives you the ability to choose your anonymity level. You can choose never to be acquainted with your fellow apartment-ers and neighbors or you can choose to be that person and bring over fruit cakes all the time. A dorm, on the other hand, is definitely forced interactions, which may be necessary for the first part of your college career, but definitely not the last part.

You’re off campus. It’s like not really being at school, despite the fact that you’re swamped in school work. And you’re not assaulted by the fact that everyone is going out that weekend. You can hermit in peace. And, when you feel up for it, you can choose to visit that other population that lives closer to your school and party with them. It’s just that home feeling that makes you like the atmosphere a little more.

My New Place of Residence

It’s one of those houses separated into apartments—or in our case, seven apartments. We’re six girls living in the basement with rooms smaller than the jail cells we fondly remember as our freshman dorms, which were 12 x 11. The smell assaults you the minute you walk in. Hamsters. Not like oh, you have a few hamsters? That’s cute. More like Oh my fucking god, you guys are hamster ladies. That’s like cat ladies, but worse. Like we’re breeding hamsters.

The couch they promised us is there, but more of a one-person couch. Or maybe a love couch for two anorexics. It sits in the living room, more a glorified hallway than anything, right next to the bathroom. Of all things, we expected the bathroom to be the worst. But it’s quite nice, sans leaking hole where bugs crawl out of.

Walking through the dimly-lit corridor, still smelling like hamsters but less because your nose is getting used to the smell, you enter my room, bathed in whatever light I can get from a window about half the size of the wall, length-wise and width-wise. Well that’s terrifying, what if someone crawls through your window? I shrug it off. I’m really excited for you to see the bullet hole in the window. Sometimes I’m visited by a fat squirrel.

Other than the window issues, it’s really a nice place. But watch the corners, spiders tend to breed there. Just habitually spray it with some cleaning chemical to keep the population down.

Oh, and the time it takes to get on campus…could be better. I mean, it’s about a 15-20 minute walk. I plan on biking until the 5-foot snowfalls come; actually I’m hoping for a winter more like last year. And my friends, well, they’re all over the place, really. We couldn’t all be living right by each other, could we? We all have separate social lives and everything… No, I didn’t live with close friends either. I always think it’s a bad idea.

Yeah, I also have to cook for myself now and do the shopping. I figure I’ll either lose a lot of weight from forgetting to buy groceries or gain a ton of weight because I’d eat out instead.

Why did I move off campus? You know… I can’t really remember the reason right now… I’ll get back to you on that.