“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” — Friedrich Nietzsche. E very year I like to write something here that imparts a little wisdom and a few words drawn from experience to those teenagers who will graduate this spring. This particular column was one I offered up in 2010, but I think the message holds true three years later.
I guess the simplest way to say it is to just throw it out there: no matter what you do, no matter where you go and no matter what you want to be — just be yourself.
Society demands we all conform to be accepted. I have known this for years and I have begrudgingly acknowledged this to be the truth. We are taught from a young age to follow the norm of society, to fall in line with what society expects of us if we want to make it in the world.
These guidelines set by society range from who the right people are for us to associate with, what are the right books to read, the proper music to listen to, the right schools for us to attend and the proper dress code to adhere to. Thinking that is outside the box — ideas that are not typical in our society — is often frowned upon.
I’m guilty of “going with the flow” just like so many of us are. I have frowned on nonconformity myself only to later regret having done so when I myself don’t like being held to certain standards of conformity. I wish long ago I would have maintained my individuality before the corporate and social machines got a hold of it and tore it to pieces. Putting it back together later in life isn’t always easy to do.
While there are certain societal expectations we must live by, individuality is truly the key to greatness.
All of our progress, discoveries and breakthroughs we owe to men and women who had the courage to be different. Not conforming to what society expects often makes one an outcast, but on the flip side our greatest thinkers were these same social misfits.
Let’s face it, these are the people who changed the world. Without them we would not have made the technological, medical and scientific advancements we have today.
My point, to the Class of 2013, is don’t lose sight of who you are when you go out in the world. Although there are laws and rules we all have to live by, don’t let society turn you into another “worker drone” who is there solely to benefit the hive. Enjoy your life, enjoy your individuality and most of all — be happy.