Writing My Corner

I am not a special snowflake. Despite what adults—parents, teachers, coaches—may have told me as I traversed the self-esteem bolstering landscape of grade school, I am not special, not one-of-a-kind, not even remotely unique. Life will not open up, effortlessly, to meet my every naive desire: I won’t be swept off my feet by Prince Charming or write the next Harry Potter series or become President of the United States. The world is not my oyster—I can’t simply pry open the shell of the Earth, steal its pearls, and call them my own.

But if I’m not special, why would anyone care what I have to say?

 

In the last few weeks of high school, the best teacher I’ve ever known gave an address to all graduating seniors at our annual recognition night. “You are not all special snowflakes,” he began, and I heard the auditorium hold its collective breath—proud parents and shimmering students, wide-eyed and stunned.

The dissonance swallowed me, there in that auditorium. I was voluntarily attending this night precisely for recognition, to glide upon that stage to the sound of my own name, to hear my accomplishments read aloud, to receive a pin and a meaningful pat on the back. I told everyone I was attending just to hear my teacher speak, but this was only a half-truth: really, I wanted people to remind me that I was special.

And here was someone I deeply admired, telling me, point-blank, that I wasn’t.

As a high-achieving student, defined most explicitly by my GPA and test scores and essays, I was raised to believe I had this quantifiable uniqueness—one that would magically open doors and split oceans and catapult me to “success.” I don’t. But, like Orwell, I do have an ego (as much as I try to suppress it)—it’s a competitive one, one that seeks awards and praise and opportunity. I feed off affirmation; I drown in perfectionism. I write from this place, sometimes. But I am not special.

Yet I am the center of my universe. Everything I do revolves around me: I’ve only ever seen through my eyes, I’ve only ever thought through my brain. Everything I know is filtered through the catacombs of myself. I contain multitudes—and contradictions and experiences, but these themselves don’t make me special. Not in relation to everything and everyone and everyplace else.

How do I bridge the unfathomable distance between the universe within me and the universe that surrounds me?

 

I had most of these thoughts, sitting there in that auditorium that held its breath, as my favorite teacher spoke. I shifted uncomfortably and sweated (probably) and felt somewhat itchy—both physically and existentially—like I do when I’m unsure of myself.

But my teacher didn’t invalidate my notion of self. Rather, he redirected it. “You can’t be special to the whole world,” he said. “Instead, you can work, tirelessly, to light up the corner of your universe.” Indeed, I am the center of my universe—not the universe. The universe is big; my corner is small (miniscule). And don’t have to be special to light it up, brilliantly.

I guess all of this is a long way of saying: I am not special, but I do matter. And so my writing matters. Not to everyone, but to someone.

I write to find and explore and light up my corner of the universe—to traverse these spaces of overlap, the centers of proverbial venn diagrams that connect people and places and thoughts. I write to bridge the chasm between the world that lives inside of me and the world that I inhabit. I write for empathy, for aesthetic, to feel special but not to be special.

 

So why would anyone care what I have to say?

Maybe because that abstract “anyone” is no more of a special snowflake than I am.

Maybe because they live in my corner of the universe—or maybe because they don’t.

Maybe because they, like me, are wandering around between notions of self, searching my writing for spaces of overlap.

***

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” –David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

4 thoughts to “Writing My Corner”

  1. Hi Stina-
    I loved this post. There are so many students here struggling to transition from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond, and I think that your insights on whether or not it matters if you’re a “special snowflake” are thought-provoking and encouraging.
    I think that it’s important to recognize who you’re writing for, and I think the fact that you aren’t writing for recognition will make your pieces more honest and, frankly, better. I know that I read to understand or at least absorb others’ perspectives and experiences, and as that kind of reader, the “maybes” at the end of your post were spot on, and your writing voice carried through as personal and, therefore, relatable.
    Emily

  2. Hey Stina,
    I really like how you start this out by displaying all the cliches we’ve all been told about how special we all are. This is a really interesting take on seeing the value in yourself while still being able to recognize you’re not that “special snowflake” that you’ve always been told. I definitely relate to this, as I’ve heard time and time again these same cliche phrases, but I never truly believed them. I really like how you say, “I’m not special, but I do matter”, because I think that really captures a feeling a lot of people probably can relate to. Interesting piece & nicely written!

  3. Hi Stina! I really enjoyed this post because you have a very interesting take on being unique. I liked how you started broadly, without any mention or hint of why you write, and then at the very end, connected your answer to who you identify yourself to be. I also liked how you used the repeating “Maybe” at the end; they were definitely successful and made me as a reader consider your musings in relation to myself. It sounds like you have a good handle on your essay and I hope it continues to evolve well!

  4. As someone who comes from a small town and high school where I grew up always at the top of my class I can really relate to this. In elementary up through high school everyone seemed to treat me like I was special or even say it outright but coming here it is easy to see that this wasn’t so true. In my small community upbringing my corner of the world was bright and stood out but here at Michigan it is merely ordinary. Just one among a lot of people who stood out where they came from. But does that make me any less special? Not to me I don’t think and not to the people who truly care about me and know me. I also agree that I write to feel special and to feel like I have some understanding of the world not under some illusion that I actually am.

Leave a Reply