When I was in the second grade I remember looking in the mirror at my large beauty mark on the left side of my face. I had always thought it was ugly- like a bit of mud or poop smudged onto the side of my face, but at that moment I started to like it. I thought it made me look different, sophisticated and cool. The other girls didn’t have a mark on their face and I did, making me inherently different than the other second graders.
When I was in fourth grade I became a vegetarian. I told my friends and parents it was because I felt bad for the animals and because I once saw blood on my KFC chicken, but really I just wanted to be different.
In the eighth grade I decided to take French when every other student at my middle school besides a motley crew of about 5 of us, enrolled in Spanish. “ I just think it’s a beautiful language, plus I could really see myself living in Paris,” I told my eighth grade posse. Really, I just wanted be different than my friends.
In high school all of my friends listened to the same type of music, but I opted for the lyrics of bands they didn’t like- The Strokes, Bright Eye’s, The Shins and a couple of older bands I stumbled upon while looking through my Father’s collection. I didn’t necessarily like these bands anymore than what was popular, but once again I thought that if I liked this stuff it would make me different and therefore infinitely cooler than the rest of my friends…that maybe a cute high school outcast would see me surrounded by my popular friends and be like “Oh wow, that girl is cool, she’s so different than her friends…”
Just recently in my junior year of college all of my friends decided to go abroad and I obviously wanted to go too. They all chose destinations in Europe- Barcelona, Paris, Florence, Prague- and where did I go? South Africa. Was this because I really wanted to go there or because I, once again, just wanted to prove how different I was from everyone else? Side note: going to South Africa was easily the best decision I ever made, but I do still question my initial reasons for choosing it on a regular basis.
I had always had a lot of friends growing up, so thriving to be different didn’t make me weird or an outcast- it made me the normal girl who liked offbeat things, had weird habits and wasn’t always wearing what her friends wore. At the time I thought I was finding myself or something of the sorts, but years later I’m still thriving to be different from those around me and I still don’t think I’ve truly found myself.
I’m still uncertain if this desire to be different was fueled my own self-consciousness or from my loving psychologist of a mother, whom from an early age told me, “Michelle- different is good, it makes you special.”
Now, at the age of 21 I am still a vegetarian, still find comfort in the lyrics of The Strokes and am still perpetually stuck in the state of trying to do things just a little bit differently than my peers. As I enter the next portion of my life my friends are looking to graduate school or organized gap year programs and I just want to go live on a commune somewhere and fall in love with a dreaded hippie man. This isn’t to say that I’m not taking the LSAT this October and that I’m not planning for my future. I am, but I just want to do it differently than everyone else.
Perhaps all of my years of trying so hard to not conform to my friends have truly morphed me into a person who does things differently or perhaps I’m still trying to too hard to make myself come off as different.
I know that I am not alone in this. I’m not sure why we do it- if maybe actively trying so hard not conform to those around us signifies that we are really the ones struggling, if maybe we’re the most lost because we’re actually putting an effort into being different or if we’re simply just trying to find ourselves in this crazy world.
When it comes to matters of opinion, discover some of the most intriguing, informed points of view you’ll find anywhere — at The Opinionator, from The New York Times