Albrecht: Special Snowflake Syndrome

by Emily Albrecht | 2/19/14 4:52pm

Tyler Durden of “Fight Club” (1999) fame famously spat, “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” I first saw that movie six years ago, but the line has stuck with me ever since. I think many of us here at Dartmouth, myself included, suffer from Special Snowflake Syndrome.

Everywhere I look, I see the notion that realizing your full potential as a person comes with reaching deep down into your heart and finding some special career that will make you happy and whole. Not following your dreams, whatever they may be, supposedly makes your life less meaningful and bright. Being a worthwhile person, apparently demands doing what you love, no matter what. It’s a nice thought, but this idea is rubbish. Not everyone can follow their dreams, and more importantly, not everyone needs to do so to live a meaningful life.

Being able to chase your dreams as a professional goal is a privilege. Going to New York to become the next big thing is much easier when your parents chip in for rent, or if they paid for your swanky college degree in the first place. When you have to worry about putting food on the table and making rent, chasing your dreams takes a backseat. In rural and low-income communities, you hear much less about following your heart’s desires and much more about making enough to get by. Yet being unable to land some deeply fulfilling or monumental job does not make anybody less of a person, or make his or her life less meaningful.

The world needs accountants, baristas, managers, servers, wood manufacturers and small business owners. The world needs people to do things that need to be done, even the tasks that are not quite as shiny or polished. As Dartmouth students and future alumni, we are not morally or philosophically above the mundane. It is okay if we never find our dreams or do something we like instead of something we love.

Thinking that we are all special snowflakes who will go out and do something that lands us individual Wikipedia pages can be incredibly psychologically damaging to one’s sense of self-worth. Quite frankly, despite graduating from one of the best colleges for undergraduate learning in the country, not all of us will work on Wall Street, write for the New Yorker, found the next big tech startup or save the lives of millions with nonprofit work. Some Dartmouth graduates will accomplish these things and more, and that is great for them. But many of us are going to go lead lives that may not include complete professional nirvana — and that is okay, too.

Do not fall into an anxious pit of despair, as I am often wont to do at the realization that I am probably not going to dramatically change the world. Though we have been hearing such rhetoric all of our lives, the reality is much less exciting. Luckily, one’s life does not need to be bombastic in order for it to be worth something.

Desiring comfort is okay, too. Wanting to find nothing more than happiness should not be frowned upon. With only one life to live, and our personal timers hanging invisibly above our heads, we need to focus on more than potential jobs and careers. We need to try and be happy in the moment. And we do not know if it will be one of our last.

This is not an ode to anarchy, to totally disregarding the future. It is merely my hope that the pressures many of us have faced our entire lives — to be the best person who ever was — do not stop us from living our lives in the present and pursuing something that we actually enjoy. There is more to life than a resume and more to meaning than the jobs and careers you will eventually have.

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