Walking around campus at Ole Miss I feel like a shining beacon of oddity as I realize I am one of few not in “uniform,” the standard Nike shorts and Greek t-shirt. I am constantly asked if I am in a sorority, followed up by why I decided to drop after a mere few months. It’s always the same interactions that provoke the same confused expressions, which convey the inability to fathom how I could or would want to not be apart of a sisterhood and “find my place on campus.” What others don’t seem to grasp is that I felt more alone and like a blank face in the crowd within that “sisterhood” than I do now that I actively choose who I associate with and how I wish to be perceived by others through personal expression and fashion. Everyone is constantly trying to blend in and be what others claim is “cool” that they fail to see and identify who they truly are and what makes them uniquely interesting.
In contrast to this homogeneous environment, while exploring Tiwanaku and touring the museums here of ancient civilizations I can’t help but notice how desperately people used to work to try and differentiate themselves from others. The higher classes would strap boards against infant’s heads in order to ensure a deformed, oblong skull to signify status; individuals would mutilate their body with piercings and tattoos; they would dress in ornate jewelry that expressed individuality and personal style. Though sometimes radical and unethical, I can’t help but envy this passion for the unique and peculiar. Instead of reprimanding and casting judgement on those for attempting to explore their inner-self and identity, this was encouraged and exalted. It makes me wish I, too, lived in such a diverse sphere where new expressions and ideas could constantly manifest and flow without being inhibited by social norms and expectations.
This difference in ideology, I believe, is partially responsible for the millennial generation’s rut in which individuals feel lost and inadequate, unable to find their purpose and place. How are we expected to do so when society promotes uniformity and monotony, the very thing that quells our ability to discover this distinct niche. I propose we imbibe this extinct notion of accepting and revering the unusual, and perhaps then we will begin healing the psychological affliction of this generation.