A few days ago, I was eating breakfast with a friend, and we were catching up on life since we hadn't seen each other in over eight months. We were talking about college and our shared experience at a certain college we both attended before I transferred to Liberty and how it compared with my experience at Liberty.
Then she asked me a question I wasn't expecting: "So what is the one thing you learned in your time at Liberty?" I had to think for a minute, not because I hadn't learned anything, but because I had learned so many different things about myself, others, literature, and life in general.
Finally, I settled on one thing I learned: how to appreciate the differences between people. Growing up, I was different from a lot of the other people my age. I was homeschooled, had different hobbies, and had a generally different life than most. So I felt different from others and was self-conscious about this. In an effort to fit in, I would look at what the other girls at my church were wearing and try to wear similar things to them. I liked things that other people liked because other people liked them. I felt that if I wasn't just like the other girls, I was doing it wrong.
Even at the first college I attended, I would try to fit in with the others, and since it was a small school, there were only a few styles that most (if not all) of the girls fell into; and I tried to as well. There were also very few options for majors, and therefore diversity in many ways was largely lacking. But then I got to Liberty, with thousands of people and dozens of degree programs and students from all over the world.
Because there were so many people from different backgrounds and on different paths, I could not feasibly be like everyone, and that was comforting to me. I found friends who had wildly different degree programs from my English degree: animal sciences, art, computer science, and psychology. We all dressed differently, their different approaches and experiences enriched our friend group, and no one felt the need to be like everyone else. We could be ourselves and be appreciated for it.
I learned that different does not equal wrong and that appreciating the differences between people does not equal wanting to be like that person. Living with an appreciation for differences is much better than trying to emulate everything you see. Doing, watching, wearing, and listening to things that you don't actually like but feel like you should like is exhausting and honestly a waste of time. It is incredibly freeing to only do, watch, wear, and listen to things that bring you joy without worrying about whether it is popular or whether it fits with a very narrow stereotype that you may be trying to fit yourself into in an attempt to belong.
Find your people who appreciate your differences and whose you appreciate and be yourself. Be kind but be yourself. When you find these people, hold onto them: it's worth it.