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Saturday, 20 February 2010

You are unique and special

You are unique, you are an individual. That’s what we are told from very early in our lives. I had a book about how amazing the world was. It was a fun cartoon book and at the end was the most memorable page. It said that the most amazing thing in the world was... YOU! And there was a big mirror in the middle of the page so you could see yourself and feel special and unique. I always found that the concept that I was special and unique was a slightly odd concept. After all, there are lots of people and they are special by being unique, but how many special people can there be? If one person is special, every person is, but if everyone is special then it devalues the concept of “special”. But I was young and my parents told me it was true and I didn’t like disagreeing with them because they were big and clever.

Nowadays I feel like a mushy average of people I know, a product of my surroundings and situation, and of the people who I know. If I’m unique, it’s not in a very satisfying way! I change depending on my circumstances at any given moment. I’m possibly still unique at any given moment, but every moment is a unique point and by the definitions of my childhood, I was special and unique ten minutes ago, but I’m differently special and unique now. Now everyone is unique and special at every moment and there are an infinite number of different special people stretching round the world and back in time. The concept of “special” is getting less and less comforting.

As a child I was also told that as a person, I have a soul that lasts forever, and that is the essence of who I am that never changes. But I know I do change. The only solution is to change a small enough amount that I am still recognisable as myself. Even over a very long period, you have to stay constant because otherwise you get confused about your identity. If I remember back to what I did in the past and cannot understand the thought process behind making a decision then I have changed too much.

With all of these thoughts in mind, and being a product of my upbringing, I always aspire to be unique and constant. In the same way as an English student could read a book and tell you it’s a parable of women’s liberation or something, you could look at large chunks of my life and describe them as a conflict between trying to be unique and trying to be constant. To be unique you have to stay ahead of the game. You can’t be predictable, you have to build enough experiences and explore enough alleys that when you meet a new person, they will find you interesting, unique and special. But that doesn’t lend itself to constancy. Why do people give you such contradictions to live your life by?!

I am often told that I am fairly constant but when I was told before Christmas that I had turned into a different person, I saved the text message and it stuck in my head. It’s one of the most disturbing text messages I have ever received. I’m sure the sender had no idea how much it would affect me. To change enough to be a different person is a scary thought indeed.

Why do I desire these things so strongly? Is it a desire found only in me, in other people with the same class background and things, is it a social construct, or is it a natural instinct that has evolved for a purpose?

I want to be constant and I want to be an individual. Does anyone else, or am I unique in that?

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