Be a Chameleon
Oblivion about your identity can feel most desolate. At the same time, forcing a label can promote exhaustion. Here's my story on how I escaped both of those feelings.
Imagine you are watching a stereotypical teenage movie. You see the main character, love interest, best friends, and background actors. It is simple to identify their labels among different cliques. You know athletes from mean girls and the academically inclined from the socially inept. Then, you have characters that fall into more than one category. They make the movie longer than it needs to be because, occasionally, they are the ones with identity issues. What about rare individuals who fall into all categories?
From a young age, I always fit in amongst every social group. My eighth birthday party involved the entire second-grade class. I remember my mother excitedly asking how I could appeal to many people. I was never able to give her a concise response. A similar situation happened years later, and I brought it up with my dad. He said he was the same way in high school. "You're a chameleon." He took my eyebrow raise and slightly cocked head as a sign to elaborate. "Meaning you don't stick to one group. You can blend in with anyone you're around. It's not a bad feature." He noted, then proceeded to focus on driving. Ever since that car ride, I saw my ability to appeal to anyone as the greatest strength of my character. Versatility was something I sought out. Dance made this more attainable. Training in multiple genres allowed me to take on many qualities, each being a new pigment for my scales. Some traits fit certain songs better than others, and eventually, the songs became people. I had a different persona for each interaction.
While I was transitioning from middle to high school, blending in displayed inadequacy. My dance instructor emphasized she did not want this. "Alina, you're not standing out in class. I see moments from you occasionally, but I want that consistently." So, I made sure my shade was more vibrant than the rest. I challenged myself with more dance classes during and after school to make sure I excelled in all movements. Another teacher loved to reiterate that we were all just numbers on a roster, checked off one by one in a series of scores, races, and occupations. So, I ensured my resume was distinctive. I pursued different electives, volunteered, refined my leadership skills, and got a job. The brilliance appeared not only on my exterior but in my bank account and other environments. Throughout the college application process, standing out was a top priority. It was here I recognized I had forgotten who I was. There was so much time spent on playing roles and shifting through numerous colors. Standing out seemed like the hardest thing to do. As I approached the closing of my high school experience, I feared a lot. Was I merely a mobile extension of my environment? Did my colors create an impact? What triggered this fear? After challenging my thinking, I realized I was treating high school like the end all be all. The diploma hanging on the wall would represent the peak of my life.
I learn multiple things from different people and activities. Each one serves as a reason for why and who I am. Sometimes one persona will prove more beneficial than another. However, it is equally fundamental to keep the other at your disposal. Finding ways to combine my love for dance, art, and music into one career may be the most stressful task I ever do. I cannot be one thing. I refuse to. If I am one trait, I blend in with millions of background actors. My color would only add to the existing palette. I want to be the main character in my own story and give off my hue.
My versatility is what makes me different. It is who I am. If a chameleon were unable to change colors, it would just be another lizard in the rainforest.