Our Quest To Be Different
By Amit Mehra
The life of a person often revolves around the struggle to be different. The failure to become different or be validated as different has its roots ironically, in our rejection of being the same. It has its roots in our ignoring, hiding, being embarrassed and eventually outright rejecting our sameness with other human beings.
Right from an early age, we embark on the search and validation of this “different” in us. The fact is that this quest to be different is actually the same as that of over seven billion other human beings on this planet. But we fail to see that.
We are blind to our sameness and keep striving to be different. This can be a recipe for failure. I believe that it is necessary for us to not only accept but celebrate our sameness. Wear it on our sleeves like a badge of honor.
I am a human being and I am just like you. To be precise, a part of me is just like you. This is my connection with the rest of the human race. In fact, why limit it to humans? A part of me is the same as animals, nature and even buildings. I too need a strong foundation if I want to stand tall and last long.
The acceptance of our sameness is the strongest foundation any human being can have. In fact, without accepting it, I have no foundation.
As an artist, it helps me to explore, reflect, understand and project the same fears, courage, anxieties, excitement, happiness, loss and victory in a manner that would make it identifiable and relatable for the rest of humanity, who are my audience and consumers of my art and craft.
Specifically, the foundation of sameness guides me to hone my instincts so that I choose wisely within a given framework.
For example, if I am writing a tragic scene, I will know how my characters will react, what they will wear, what they will say and do. I will know all this because somewhere a part of me is the same as them.
It is important for me to accept and celebrate the fact that I am the same as an engineer, a doctor, a shopkeeper or a cab driver – in the sense that we all want the similar things; love, joy, happiness, fortune and an easy life. We all experience heartbreaks, pain and sadness and we all hope for a lucky break, a second chance or an opportunity to shine as bright as we can.
This is my umbilical cord with my fellow beings. This is my foundation. So where does that leave my quest for finding how am I different?
Once my foundation is rock solid, and I have accepted that we are all the same, the first thing that will become clear is that I am a little different. How? Well, the very fact that I have accepted and I’m celebrating my sameness is evidence of that. Most of us aren’t accepting or are unable to.
Now, I am able to explore, reflect, understand and project various emotions, situations, realities, dreams, fantasies, aspirations, fears and failures in a more identifiable and relatable way for the audience I am creating my art for.
Now the question is – how else am I different?
So while I want the same things like all of you, I chose a different route to get there. I decided to become an artist. Why? Partly because I wanted to and partly because I realized at an early age that I had the skills that were required for the art I wanted to pursue. The two of these attributes made a heady cocktail of desire and I was on my way to becoming an artist.
Again, there is a thread of sameness in this realization. It is not very different from the realization a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, or even a cab driver may have when choosing their profession.
Now that I have become an artist, the first thing I have to do is to accept the sameness I have with other artists. We would love to create a masterpiece or two. We all seek validation for our art, our choices. To achieve some sort of recognition for our work.
We must accept and celebrate this sameness as well, regardless of the profession you have chosen. Now the question is – how can I be a different artist from other artists? How can my art be different from other art?
The trick is to look within. Stop referencing external sources and embark on a deep voyage inside yourself. It is true that our choices for our own self may be heavily influenced by external sources or developed through our own experiences..
In any case, they will be our choices. And this is why they would be unique because what we take away from each experience, exposure or influence is unique; how we remember them is unique and how we reproduce them is unique.
They are unique because at each stage we are accessing them through the prism of a different time, space and motivation, all of which are unique to our lives.
At the core, they are not very different than the choices of a million other people but we have no way of knowing how same or different they are and for how many until our art is served to the world.
The honesty with which I have explored this would define the success I will experience once it becomes public. Some would identify with it, some would relate to it and some may understand it but most will accept it and acknowledge it for what it is… different.
I am different; I chose to be an artist. I am a different artist; I chose to be inspired by my own uniqueness and reflect that bravely in my work.
How can I continue to be ‘different’? This is where the best of us often succumb to the trick monkey syndrome. We figure out a trick that gets us applause, fame and fortune and we often don’t venture back to the jungles of our mind.
We keep performing the same trick again and again, sometimes to the same audience and sometimes to different audiences. This keeps playing in a loop until we stop getting our peanuts, so to speak.
We fall into this trap because with success comes surety. It should not, but it does. Success is often a result of brave choices. Repeating yourself is not one of them.
And we forget that. We get so sure of ourselves that we forget those long lonely walks in the deep dark jungles of un-surety is what brought us this far. We start talking and believing in absolute terms. We feel we know it all or that what we know is enough.
The real trick is to stay unsure. The real trick is to always approach every job with the curiosity of a child. The real trick is to always be a student, to always be a learner and to always be open.
So then am I the same or different? All I am, is a sum total of my desires without ever doing enough to achieve them. There is a popular saying in India; “The moment you wake up, is the moment of a new dawn.
I will start with acknowledging, accepting and celebrating my sameness before I embark on my real quest to find my difference.
By Amit Mehra
Amit has worked in the film, broadcasting and advertising industry for 24 years as a writer, director and producer. He has made many advertising films, television shows and even written for feature films, one of which won best feature award in Marbella, Spain. He hopes to one day create and direct his own feature film.
First published in Gem Magazine