In a sea of sameness, two dare to be different

In a world where individuals strive for acceptance and achieve it by blending in with the crowd, two students dare to be different: juniors Xolani Harrison and Robby Sollie.

Many teens today are more concerned with how many likes their Instagram post gets than anything else. Girls look up to the tall, thin, flawless supermodels that grace most magazine covers. Boys look up to the bodybuilding, handsome heroes in Hollywood movies that always seem to get “the girl.”

One thing has gone missing in all this need for acceptance: uniqueness.

Since the very beginning, humans have lived together in small groups and have since felt the need to be accepted by the group they associate with. For teens in particular, social acceptance and belonging in society is fundamental to humans. So, what causes people like Harrison and Sollie to want to stand out in a crowd?

“I like to dye [my hair] bold colors and patterns because I consider it an art and a way to express myself,” Harrison said. “I have a personality that usually gets along with others. That’s hard to really find.”

Harrison’s bright hair is a striking contrast to her darker skin and causes people to notice her in a crowd despite her short stature.

In middle school, Harrison said that she was bullied for being different, especially for dressing like a punk pop icon and dying her hair in the most extravagant, neon colors—which currently is two different shades of green. Harrison said the bullying caused her to feel very insecure about herself because she “wasn’t normal” and didn’t fit in with all the other “normal” people.

Those who know Harrison says she has a personality that is hard not to like; she is considerate and empathetic in every sense of the term and her delightful, altruistic, and endearing personality clashes with her bold, harsh sense of style and hair color.

She said that she has to fake her confidence now to, hopefully, gain it later.

“Not everyone is going to love you or what you do, so do it for yourself and not others,” Harrison said. “When it comes down to it, it’s your life and no one should have a say in how you live it except you. Life is too short to be normal.”

Sollie, on the other hand, has a very different opinion about social acceptance and uniqueness—both his own and others.

“I make choices that are different from a lot of other people,” Sollie said. “I tend to be more respectful.”

Because of his tall stature, Sollie has a gangling physique. In a crowd of newly tanned individuals, it’s hard not to notice his blonde hair and fair skin, especially when it is paired along with his lankiness. He would be described by others as having a nerdy personality; he carries a dictionary in his pocket almost all the time, has a rare appreciation for academics, and loves to read, especially books in the fiction genre.

Sollie said that he has a lot of confidence in himself simply because it makes life a lot easier if he doesn’t have to worry about what he looks like or what others think about how he looks.

Most notable is his love for works of fiction, such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s many books about Middle Earth, which are prevalent in his writing style and overall demeanor. Sollie enjoys debating with and discussing all forms of art, from fiction to nonfiction and all of the genres in between. He says he is comfortable with both himself and the things he is most passionate about.

“I think if you’re too afraid to stick out in a crowd then you don’t want to be unique enough,” Sollie said.