Everyone likes to feel validated.
Take me, for instance. As I sit here writing this article and munching on a partly-burnt cheese omelet, I’m imagining what sorts of accolades I will receive for my efforts (on the article, not the omelet–the omelet is an abomination). A few “likes” on Facebook. Maybe a personal message of appreciation. Perhaps the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker will stumble upon it and decide to come down from his spot on Olympus to award me with “Best and Sexiest College Journalist Alive”.
A girl can dream, right?
But you see what I mean here, I hope. How often do we do things because we truly love them? More often than not, we’re looking for someone else to tell us that we’ve done a good job. This starts at an early age. In Pre-K we slave over arts and crafts projects, not because we really love papier-mache, but because we’re hoping the teacher will love ours the best and put it in the middle of the bulletin board. Fourteen or fifteen years later, we’re doing the same thing—granted with lab reports or ten-page research papers or portfolios, hoping our work will be again hang in the center of the bulletin board that is our professor’s hearts.
What I’m about to tell you may shock you.
This is the real world, and in the real world, there are no bulletin boards. Not in this metaphor. No, sir.
In the real world you have to work hard for the validation you crave. You have to want it so bad it hurts. You have to slave for hours—days—weeks on end to achieve the end you want. And in the end, it’s all out of your hands. You don’t get to decide what other people think of you. If they disagree with you, you don’t get to wave your hands in their face and insist that you worked so hard and you deserve whatever it is that they have that you want. In the real world, there is no A for effort. It’s pass/fail. There is no curve, no gold stars. You have it or you don’t.
Does that make you angry? Keep reading, there’s a moral in here somewhere.
Too often I’ve been told that I’m not exactly what someone else is looking for—not old enough or too old, not funny enough, trying too hard, too girly or not girly enough, too self-deprecating, overly confident. And you know what? That sucks. It sucks to try your hardest and know that at the end of the day, the person you are just doesn’t fit the arbitrary mold that you were trying so desperately to squeeze yourself into.
This year, I say, if you can’t fit it, break it.
So frequently we mold ourselves into what we want others to see—the Real BC Girl, the funniest kid on campus, a Dean’s List student at a top-50 university—that we forget who we are or what we’re doing here. We forget that we’re people and not parts, that we have our own hopes and dreams exclusive of the people around us, that we’re capable of making them happen. We forget that we can do things on our own. Is that harder? Well, yes, but it can be more rewarding to look back and say, “I did this on my own, because I wanted to, and not to prove anything to anyone else.”
Rejection can make us forget the things we have achieved. You’re here, just like everyone else, and you worked to get here. You have opportunities and assets that others would kill for. This year, use them. Go out on a limb. You know that thing you love? Do it, and do it unashamedly badly, without fear of judgment. Make something you think is spectacular and soon enough someone else may think the same thing.
As a wise man (the guy who sings “Teach Me How to Dougie”) once said, “Do you, and I’mma do me.”
To do your thing is the hardest thing to do. So this year, give it a shot. Make your own kind of music. Sing your own special song. And maybe, just maybe, someone else might sing along.