Embracing your otherness

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? 

For the longest time, I felt this way. 

As if everyone around me was living in another world where they were accepted by their peers and could relate with one another in a way that I couldn’t. 

This started to change as I learned about ‘otherness.’

It was fall semester of my 2nd year in college, classes had just started. 

I met up with a friend who was about to graduate. He had started a profitable company, raised money, and sold his shares. People admired him in the entrepreneurship bubble at my university. 

We’d go on walks once every two weeks or so to discuss ideas and things on our mind. They rarely had an agenda. During this walk, on that fall day, he introduced me to the concept of ‘otherness.’

When I told him about my trouble of ‘fitting in’ he asked me why?

I gave him a few reasons:

  • I don’t share the same interests as most people
  • I come from a different background than my peers: first generation immigrant, south asian, and first generation college student
  • I’m unaware of many popular culture references 

He continued, “what you have that they don’t, is ‘otherness.’” The unique set of experiences that led you to become the person you are today.

I had subconsciously known this but the feeling of missing out was overwhelming at the time.

Since I felt like I couldn’t “fit-in,” I resorted to creating my own groups.

Places where I felt comfortable amongst others on the fringe. 

Instead of trying to get into established clubs on campus, I joined the entrepreneurial club. It was new and fledgling, it didn’t look good on a resume.

Over time, I made it into an inclusive community for people who felt like they had no where else to go. It became an experience that members were proud of sharing with other students and potential employers.

What does embracing your ‘otherness’ mean to you?

To me, it’s about creating places where I feel comfortable rather than defaulting to the status quo. By comfort I mean being around people who are passionate, have fringe interests, and have faced some degree of adversity. Dissent in ideas is encouraged rather than frowned upon.

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