I find that the deeper I delve into foreign lands, the further I stray from normal, and the further normal strays from me.

Lately I notice that people here cannot help but notice me. Admittedly, there is no reason to blame them for their riveted gaze, as I fall far from the natural deviation of the average Japanese citizen, being naturally blonde, obviously American, and above all 5’11”. Out here, there is no escape from the fact that I differ in ways beyond mere physiology. Although at first a jarring sensation, living in an environment which so blatantly indicates my disparity has come to be somewhat liberating.

I look outward, and know within that I could never persuasively blend into this tableau. As any prospects of assimilating are extinguished, so too are my reservations. With freedom I take my chances, gracefully excusing my own mistakes. Truly, I am swifter without my shell.

On occasion, this culture is an able foil to my newfound social audacity. The well-known adage, “the nail that sticks up is first to be hammered down,” is incidentally a Japanese proverb, and its implications perhaps still percolate through the pores of this people. Here, collectivism is the de facto expectation; a singular civil identity looms above, obliging the members underneath to a sense of duty. Although this lacquer serves as a powerful bonding agent, at times it may also dull the edges and features of individuals, until they are flush with one another.

Yet to each of us is a geometry that resides within, articulating the curves, arches, and points of our personal desires. Past our common mold as human beings, we divide by means of different trajectories—sometimes chosen, sometimes assigned—and we continue to separate farther apart with time.

Still, and even in America, our wont is to fly in flocks. To deviate in an angle too oblique from the norm spells consequence: because divergence has a tendency to evoke apprehension from our peers, and because the frontier is reserved only for the hardiest of us.

It seems odd, then, that with this fear of deviation, there coexists a reverence for the unique and extraordinary. The pioneer is regarded as a fool until they prosper, and accordingly, a guarantee for success becomes prerequisite before we concede to our more disparate natures.

Regardless, that geometry of the soul remains intact. Whether we actualize it on the surface, or repress it for fear of failure, those vertices push from underneath; and if we refuse to grow with them, they scrape against the skin, as if in protest.

To illustrate: as a child, I found myself terrified upon discovering that I am transgender. Dread surfaced with the mere suggestion of transition, as I firmly believed it equated to doom. After all, the chance of actual fulfillment, or happiness, seemed so small. So do all things, from far away.

If you’re someone like me, for whom the pain eventually became too severe to conceal, you may sometimes find that you have brought yourself to a desolate place, devoid of equals, and devoid of guidance.

You cannot blame yourself. If destiny exists, it breathes from within us, as a product one’s spirit. When doubt plagues me, I recall that fear comes from looking below and behind, and that the secret to confidence is simply remembering that risk has a high yield. So if you’re going to be different, be a professional: make it your life’s work, and if not for glory, so that others may no longer be afraid to reach such great heights, if they see you up above.

chatter profile photoCeleste Chisholm is a rising senior in the College. An American Hoya in Japan appears every other Thursday at thehoya.com.

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