This may come as a shock: You are not unique. Neither am I. I know, that’s not what we’ve been told. I’m not going to call our parents and teachers liars, exactly. The thing is, in the grand scheme of it all, that smidge of genetic code that makes each of us different from each other is so infinitesimally small that, well, in any other circumstance it would be rounded. We are people. That should be enough.
But even if we roll with that tiny bit of difference that we like to hang on to so much, we are really only different in batches. Be they geographical, ethnic, cultural, intellectual, whatever, they are still groups. Then within those groups there are little subgroups based on how we enjoy spending our time. We choose from a cocktail of human activities what to do while we’re awake. It is within these subgroups that we assert our uniqueness, but really, we aren’t.
If you are into gardening (I saw Michelle Obama sowing seeds with Elmo yesterday, so trust me, that’s mainstream) crafts, food, politics, travel, celebrities, parenting, the environment, anarchy, atheism, being smarter than everyone else, living off the grid; anything you can think of, someone else can, has, and there is a website about it. (FYI, I do not endorse any of said websites, I was just looking for examples... ok, some of them I read. But which ones?) Basically, if you hear someone shirking something because it’s “trendy” what they really mean is that it happens not to be a trend that interests them.
I realized recently that my starting a blog is not only itself unoriginal, but puts me squarely in a specific category of the fastest growing group of bloggers: Mommy Bloggers. Yup, I jumped right on that one without realizing it. But here’s the thing, we are all out there being influenced by the same media and by each other. Is it any wonder that trends fly through fast and furious and pull us all aboard before we even recognize it? Especially nowadays when we are so connected that what the rest of the world is doing is literally in our pockets. (And the people who choose to distance themselves from media and technology? Well, that of course, is a trend too. It’s been around for a while, actually. Walden Pond is getting crowded.)
So as people being influenced by each other constantly, where is this obsession for uniqueness coming from? It is a mythical proposition. Don’t get me wrong, I highly value transcendentalism. Even if this post doesn’t sound like I do. I am not a proponent of doing everything because the masses do. Going your own way is something I consider an ideal. I also greatly admire perseverance and personal achievement. However, the pursuit of distinguishing yourself from the masses for the sake of brandishing your uniqueness is to me a fruitless endeavor. Get in line.
My brain got caught on this track yesterday as I was reading a very popular (because she’s fantastic) mommy blogger who had written a post about writing a book. She was a bit self-deprecating about it because everyone else is writing books. I fail to see the problem. It is a logical conclusion that someone who enjoys writing (hence the blog) would write a book. And as writing is one of the primary ways we communicate with each other, it is extremely logical that many of us would like it and therefore also want to write books. I would say the same thing about music, art, storytelling/acting, and scientific discovery. They seem to be intrinsic human pursuits.
A little FYI about me: I’m a fan of Abraham Maslow. As such, his hierarchy of needs framework tends to influence how I see things. Think back to any kind of psych course you may have taken and his pyramid will ring a bell. On the bottom is meeting physiological needs and you move on up until you get to a point of “self-actualization”. It’s a beautiful model, I enjoy it immensely. Take a peek.
If you look at our culture, the bulk of us have pretty much been able to move past the lower needs. We are fed, clothed and housed for the most part. So most of our society is hanging out in the love/belonging or self-esteem/respect of others area. As such, it is not surprising we are trying to distinguish ourselves. If we were hungry, we wouldn’t bother. And that is the point.
Our country is swarming with people with a lot of time on their hands to think about their place in the world (hence the blogs). Now I find it wonderful when people choose to spend their time bettering themselves and the world around them with whatever gifts their smidge of genetic uniqueness has endowed upon them. But to be different for different’s sake (a losing battle statistically speaking) or famous for fame’s sake (ick) is just a sad commentary on human potential, if not a new one.
Paradoxically, trying to be like everyone else is a real problem. There are herds of people out there suffering eating disorders and massive credit card debt because they fail to grasp the distinction. What I am saying is that it’s okay that we aren’t all completely separate unique beings, not that we should all try to be one mainstream ideal. I do not advocate following a pack. Rather, when you find yourself within a pack, be sure to make the most of the likeminded company.
I blog, I throw pottery, I’m a mother, a knitter, a gardener, a nurse, a suburban housewife. None of these things make me unique, but within these pursuits and with the companionship of others, I am able to find meaning and purpose. The appearance of conformity is not equivalent to a deadening of the mind. Anyone saying otherwise probably just heard that from someone else.
So why am I going on and on about this? It’s filling up my head. I needed a release. So it was either this or my disappointing pedometer experiences. I’ll save that topic for later.