Difference. It's the single most divisive concept in our society. Being "different" is labeled a bad thing all too often.
But it isn't.
The difference is one of the most treasured concepts as well. If we all followed in the same footsteps, the same molds, it would be all too easy to lose sight of the fact that we aren't all the same — not even close.
I've made myself into a poster child for being different over the past few years, and it has been the best thing that I've ever done. Like many of you, I grew up in a situation where being different was looked down upon. I spent many years through middle and into high school trying to check all the boxes of the things I thought I was missing to be "normal." I changed the way I dressed (anyone who knew me in middle school, OUCH!), the way I acted, and the way that I looked at my time at school. I was never the best student or athletic type. I never played football like most of my friends, and only played rec-league basketball to humor my parents.
Compared to most of the guys I grew up with, I was an outcast. I was different. I couldn't relate to anything about them. And I hated that. I wanted to be like the "cool kids" who always had fun and were never spending Friday nights at home with my family. I tried so hard to break change who I was that I completely forgot it.
My time in college (or rather, college-aged) has been a roller coaster ride. I began my collegiate life at another university and fell into a deep mental hole trying, once again, to make myself into someone and something that I just wasn't. I loved the classes in my major, but everything else just became a slip-n-slide downhill. I lost sight of being different there, and it hurt badly.
It took a culture shock for me to realize just how important being different is. I spent most of my life simply trying to make myself into something I wasn't. I never truly developed a sense of self-identity because I was too busy trying to imitate someone else's. When I left my first school, I threw myself headlong into a totally new environment — the working world. I'm the youngest one in the office, the least senior in my position, but compared to a year ago, I'm in such a better place. I took the various images I wanted to see myself in and threw them away.
I've set myself up on a new path, very much a different one, but that's OK.
Be different. Try new things, don't be satisfied with the status quo. One of the great things about being in college is the freedom to break all the molds you want. Meet new people, try new things, find something that makes you happy, and run with it. Don't ever try to be who you're not — because who you are is awesome, just the way you are.