Trend setter! One of a kind! The first! The one and only! Show stopper, fresh, weird, diverse, unlike any other or different. These are all words that can be used to describe an individual, but what makes me unique?
When I look back at it, I guess it really all came from the environment I grew up in. People say you're a product of your environment. Being around different people and going different places shaped me and who I am today. I never wanted to be like everyone else, because I thought I would end up feeling like everyone else and blending in with the crowd. All of my immediate family and other relatives would say, "Man, that kid is so different...we don't know what it is, but there sure is something special about him..."
Years of reflecting made me realize something now that I couldn't see then; simply that when they said those things to me they were actually planting a seed that helped cultivate the uniqueness of me, "Duke" as an individual. As the years passed, more and more I found myself wanting to do different things in different ways. You could say let's go this way and I would say, "I will meet you there but I'm going my own way."
I didn't want to be or I didn't have to have to be like everyone else. I guess you can say I was a non-conformist. Duke was going to be Duke. Duke was going to be a different person. As a matter of fact, I'm still that way today...a little different.
Peer pressure can certainly be good and bad. My friends would always tell me, "Man, you're crazy. You're weird. Why are you so different?" On the truth, it never really bothered me. If they felt that way, I thought they were just tripping because I was not like them. I never thought that the way I did my thing was totally different from the way they did things, it was just me! But it was not until my junior year of college that my so called "uniqueness" was really pointed out to me by one of my respected professors (Mr. Leopold), who unexpectedly stopped me after class one day and wanted to talk to me.
He said, "Duke, what is up with you? How do you do it?" I replied, "Do what?" He answered, "How are you able to be such a chameleon? You communicate in totally different ways from the gym to the classroom. How do you do it?" I said, "I don't know. I'm just different. I think differently and I guess I'm just not like everyone else."
Mr. Leopold replied, "It amazes me that you're able to communicate so effectively, in your own way, across all gender and races. I've watched you in the classroom and on the court. I've also watched you interact with my colleagues here on campus. That's a gift and that is certainly what I find most neat about you, son. Don't change!"
I didn't have a response to Mr. Leopold. I never really thought that all those years growing up trying to be so different really had produced the personality I had become. To me, it was simply just having a way to adapt. Being able to "adapt" is not something everyone can do, but it is something I've always taken pride in. Being able to talk with a CEO of a company in the morning and hang out with my friends later on in the evening was not a difficult transition for me at all. The key for me has always been the ability to adapt to the environment I'm in without "losing" who I really am. Staying true to Duke was always there at the end of the day, regardless of where I was or who I was talking to.
But that's what makes the world go around...UNIQUENESS! It's everywhere. It's you and it's me. We each have our own unique quality about ourselves that's unlike anyone else in the world. What about some of the most unique people or things we experience in our everyday life? Why do we dress a certain way? Someone thought of a style, acted on it and now we take their lead. The music industry is full of distinctive and creative people who share their uniqueness and we buy into it. What about Lil John? He definitely has a different sound and uniqueness that stands out from any other producer in the game. What about NBA owner Mark Cuban? He's probably the most unique owner in the league and his approach to running a professional basketball team is certainly one of a kind. What about comedian Dave Chappelle? Is his humor not distinctive? Jay-Z & Beyonce? Dennis Rodman? The list is endless. Need I say more?
The conversation I had with my professor back in college made me think about what makes me so unique. Maybe me wanting to be different didn't take any effort at all? When it gets right down to it, each one of us has something about ourselves that makes us unique. What is it that makes you different? What separates you from the next basketball player?
The best news is this...being "unique" is not wrong or right, good or bad. It just makes you "you." And when that uniqueness is all used in positive ways, it's great! Do you know what makes you unique? Like ME, some of you just have that indescribable, inexpressible charisma...Yep, that "je ne sais quo!"
One! That's another page from my life. Until the diary is unlocked again, see ya next time!