Dare to be Different

3년 전

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A couple of years ago I was driving to work, and as usual, was stopped at a fairly major intersection (well, as major as intersections get in little ole Adelaide!). This particular intersection had a billboard directly across the road, so the direction I was travelling in gave me a perfect view of the advertisement. Most days, I didn't really notice what was being advertised. You see, the billboard was a part of my daily routine, as and such, was often overlooked. I just saw straight through it. On this particular day, however, I happened to see the advertisement. I'm not sure exactly what it was that drew my eye to that billboard on that day, but it was likely a combination of different elements. Possibly, it was that they had changed the advert since the previous morning, possibly, it was that I am a fan of a portion of the product on the sign, so the new advert appealed to me, or quite possibly, it was one of those mornings where I just happened to look directly at the sign and found myself focusing on the advert. Either way, I'm not too sure, but on that morning, I did see the advertisement, and on that morning, I did read it.

So now, you're probably waiting for a big epiphany to fall from my fingers, come crashing through your eyes, register in your brain and send a tidal wave of amazeballs smashing through your body. Well, at this juncture, I best take the time to apologise. There is no huge epiphany. No great monumental sign or wonder. And no great tidal wave of anything. Quite simply, just an advert for a new ice-cream called the Barista Bar. I didn't even know what in the hell a Barista Bar was, and I had certainly never tasted one. I still haven't had one two or three years down the track, and to be quite honest, I couldn't even tell you if they are still for sale. And I certainly can't tell you what drew my eyes to that billboard on that particular morning. I suspect that it was the subtle hint at coffee. You see, if you want to grab my attention, then coffee is the way to do it, and I think that the allusion to coffee by the word barista in the advertisement was enough to pique my interest. So, I looked.

As my eyes scanned the image, and read the new advertisement for this freshly crafted iced delicacy, I was drawn inexplicably to the claim that this ice-cream contained no palm oil. So? That didn't really mean anything to me. I assumed that palm oil came from trees - more specifically, palm trees, but I didn't really have much more knowledge than that on the subject. I was ignorant of anything to do with palm oil and why it was such a good thing that the folk who produced the Barista Bar had chosen to not only exclude this ingredient from their product (I did know that the Adelaide Zoo had been in heated debate around that time, because their supplier of ice-cream used palm oil in their products, and the zoo didn't want to sell their products any more.), but to also regale we, the public, of it in such an overt fashion. So, armed with nothing but my ignorance, I decided then and there that I was going to be different. If everyone was avoiding ice-cream with palm oil, I was going to do the exact opposite. That's right, folks! I would, from that point on, only eat ice-cream if it contained palm oil! Well good for me - I didn't even know what palm oil was, but I was making a stance on it. What an activist.


Disclaimer

It's about at this point, that I break from my narrative, to insert a disclaimer. I have, since my roadside pledge, done some research on palm oil. What it is, how it is grown, it's uses, and why it is such a controversial product. I don't like being ignorant, and since I didn't know what palm oil was, I thought I should probably know something about it, and in the age of Google, there isn't really any excuse to not know something anymore.

So, search I did, and it wasn't long before I found a truck load of information on palm oil and why it is such a good thing when companies decide to find an alternate product to use. If you're like me, and don't know anything about palm oil, a quick debrief is in order.

Essentially, palm oil is one of the most widely used vegetable oils on the planet. This is because it is so cheap, and has a large range of applications. Grown mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, where over 86% of the world's palm oil is produced, many fear that the frenzied farming of this product is destroying tropical rainforests, and that the human and animal populations in these areas are becoming dangerously low. Animals at risk include orang-utans, elephants, rhinos and tigers1.

You might also be happy to note that I did not actively seek out ice-cream that contained palm oil. It is a substance that seems to be in enough products, from food to lipstick, that I don't need to search too far before I find something that contains it. It seems to be one of those items that will take a long time, if ever, to be replaced.


Yep, so much of an activist, that as stated just above in the Disclaimer, I didn't once try to find ice-cream that contained palm oil. So, why tell this story? Why make you read in a seemingly aimless manner for 5 minutes. Well, I wanted to highlight here, that sometimes, we just want to be different. Whether it's for good or bad reasons, sometimes, being different is just needed.

As a teacher of high school students, I see all sorts of interesting human activity. Within this age bracket, students are struggling to find who they are and etch a path for their life. Often they are fighting against just about everything as they strive to create for themselves an identity that will carry with them for the better part of the rest of their lives. I find myself, often, on yard duty, absentmindedly watching how they interact with each other, and it's, to say the least, fascinating. There is nothing quite like the awkwardness of youth sorting out some sort of pecking order on the handball court!

I remember (Oh no! Here we go again... Steve's reminiscing about his past!) when I was young, and at school, you strove to fit in - comply. It was scary not to. You had to have the right clothes, the right shoes, the right parents, the right hair, and pretty much everything else needed to be right too. The days I would spend convincing Mum that I just had to have the new pair (at that time, it was) of Adidas - and the pleas intensified if one of your friends got them first (It's probably fair to state that my plea's often fell on deaf ears, and now, looking back, I'm glad. I'm much better adjusted for not having always got my way!). I don't remember there being a great deal of diversity within my close circle of friends. There wasn't a lot of difference, and if you were deemed to be the 'odd' or different kid, there was often hell to pay.

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I'm not sure if much has changed over the years. Again, from a teacher perspective, I feel that the interactions I see in the classrooms and school yard have shifted since I was young, and people are more readily accepted now. Being different isn't the shun that it once was, it even looks as though being different can actually be a badge of honour. But, I could be wrong.

I guess, what I'm angling at here, is: Is it good to be different?

But not just is it good, I'm also wondering if it is worth being different. I am yet to watch it, but Insatiable, Netflix's latest blockbuster was released to quite a large amount of controversy. The general premise, for those of you who don't know of it, is that a girl whole was once quite large, lost all of her weight over the summer break due to having a broken jaw and, as a result, only being able to eat through a straw. She went on to enter a beauty pageant and exact revenge upon those who had mistreated her prior to the dramatic weight loss. Before she lost the weight, though, she was heavily bullied. So, you see, being different didn't really work for her, and personally I've stopped many bullying incidents between students, over the course of my career, where the victim was heavier than what would be deemed acceptable by their peers.

I'm sure you could all recall a time when you may have experienced bullying, or have known someone who fell victim to bullying just because you or they were deemed different. And this is such a shame. If I was to answer the question posed a second ago, I would quite readily say that being different is good. Imagine, for a second, if we were all the same. Imagine if we here, on this platform were all the same. Would we actually learn anything? Probably not. It's the diversity of your/our/my background(s), coupled with the common desire to support each other that make this such a wonderful place to be. Added to which, without difference, we would not be able to experience the multiculturalism that we get so in so many of our countries.

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If you've got anything to add, or to comment on, I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to get involved in the discussion. I'd especially like to hear from any parents who can give me insight into whether I'm on track, or way off the money in regard to my thoughts about students today and how they're received if they are perceived as different. Also to the teachers out there, what are your experiences with students who are different. Do they get harassed or are they allowed to be themselves?

Thanks for following through to the end of this 'rambling' post. I'm not entirely sure where this was intended to head. Hopefully it got somewhere and has made you think in some way as you read. I like being different. I like that we have that freedom. I couldn't imagine living in a country where diversity was shunned, the norm forced upon you, and you would dare to be different at the peril of your life.


References


  1. WWF
  2. Images taken from Unsplash.


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It's an odd environment to be a teen these days, for sure. Being different seems to be such a badge of honour that some will even pursue it to their own detriment. Yet I think it always remains true that those who are confident in staying true to who they are, are the ones that attract others to them. When my eldest went to high school for a bit after being homeschooled for several years she initially tried fitting in, but then decided not to bother and just did her own thing, which was go to the library at lunch and get homework done. She liked being alone to focus, so was somewhat annoyed when classmates started joining her there. Without trying, she developed quite a following! Lol

Back in my school days, at a Waldorf School, diversity was probably more accepted than in most schools, but kids still tried to fit in and follow the trends. The most popular lad in our class had a style all of his own and was comfortable in who he was without trying to be the same as others.

I think we will always want to be accepted, whether it's because we fit in, or for who were are if we're different.

I couldn't imagine living in a country where diversity was shunned

Ditto.

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She liked being alone to focus, so was somewhat annoyed when classmates started joining her there. Without trying, she developed quite a following!

Isn't it funny how sometimes when we least expect it, we do something that actually attracts others. Your daughter must have some great qualities that just draw people to her.

I tend to agree with you in regard to being accepted. We all need acceptance in some way or another. I sometimes think that loneliness can drive this. I often like peace and solitude, but then also find that after a while, need to be around others, especially people who I know and have that mutual acceptance with.

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Your daughter must have some great qualities that just draw people to her.

Haha! She speaks her mind and people think she's joking! She's not the best when it comes to tact, but strangely it does seem to draw people to her.

We are certainly communal creatures, even those of us who need our own space occasionally, or maybe even most of the time. :D

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It's the honesty. It's refreshing.

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Ain't that the truth!

Sometimes a good rambling post is just what the doctor ordered. I think it's important to embrace diversity and differences, but it's more important to be true to your authentic self. Is it better to be different just for the sake of being so? I know people who live that way, but that's more about external admiration. I think it's better to be true to yourself, even if it means you love pumpkin spice lattes like every other white chick. wait, what? Yes, yes, I do. :p

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I've never had a pumpkin spice latte. Are they any good?

I agree with you, @uniwhisp. There's no point being different just for the sake of it, or if it isn't in your character. I think in that instance, it would become tiring. Can you imagine trying to maintain a façade for any extended period of time.

Thanks for dropping by.

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I love pumpkin spice most things. And coffee most things, so the two together are sublime. :D

Always a treat to read your musings! I have a few steemians who I will specifically check their page to see if I’ve missed a post in my feed and I think your name will start going on the list!

I have had similar urges to reject things out of nothing more than a desire to buck the mainstream. It’s the entire reason why I never read Harry Potter, for example. I can relate to your impulse, but also to your desire to learn. You’re right - there really is no excuse not to be educated about something when Google is a few taps away.

Interesting that you pose this as a “generational shift” type thing. When I was in junior and senior high (late 90s/early 00s) I still felt tremendous pressure to “fit in”. I wonder if it is shifting now.

Your post also reminds me of a line from my favorite poet:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I’ll leave you with this: sometimes when I eat many potato chips, I too suffer from the evils of palm oil.

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Upon reading your reply, I was (am) distinctly humbled by your opening paragraph, and then promptly found myself in peals of laughter, propping myself against a desk at your parting statement. Thank you for both sentiments!

I get that sometimes 'bucking the trend' is 'addictive', however, I fell victim to the juggernaut of HP, so kudos for not jumping on that train. I just feel, as you put it, the urge, to not do what is expected. I'm not sure if it is spite, for fun, or just too see how the expectant party will react.

When I was about 14 Mum asked me to go to the shops to purchase some toilet paper. She wanted the 'biggest' packet, which at the time was 6 or 9 rolls, I can't quite remember which one. Nothing like the mega 30 packs (or whatever size they're up to now!) that we can buy today. Anyway, I thought I'd try something a little different, so armed with the toilet paper, I went to the checkout with this and a box of laxatives - nothing else. The girl on checkout looked at me oddly and I just said, 'Bad week!', paid and left. I'm not too sure how she took it.

I still am not really sure if there has been as much of a shift in regard to fitting in in high school. It just feels that it has. I'd be inclined to say that the pressure is still there, and I know that there can be harassment towards students who are deemed different.

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Hah, glad I could make your morning a bit brighter and full of laughter!

Another observation, especially if you're seen 21 Jump Street. Some 30 year old cops go undercover in a high school to try and bust a drug ring, and there is a running joke that the nerdy cop (Jonah Hill) who was an outcast when he was in high school actually find himself in the cool kids group, while the one-time popular jock (Channing Tatum) finds himself part of the unpopular kids. There was still pressure to "fit in", but the pressure was to fit in to a different kind of crowd in 2015 vs 2000. Maybe that's all it is - pressure to conform is still there, but the mold is shaped differently than it was before?

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That's an astute observation, and one that is probably quite accurate. Today coders, program developers, and what would have been described as 'nerds' 30 years ago are now held in much higher regard.

I think kids are encouraged to look differently and act differently; but I'm concerned the love of diversity doesn't extend to different philosophical outlooks.
I remember moral relativism and subjective truth sweeping through around the time we left school.
Everyone's opinions are equally valid. What's true for you might not be true for someone else, etc.
Now it's come full circle. If you don't agree with the the crowd, you've committed thoughtcrime and must be shunned; even if what you're saying would've been objectively true 30 years ago, and true for you 15 years ago.

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