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ISSUE 121 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/25/2008

A Word from Our Editors: Different

By Matt Tiano
Executive Editor

Friday, April 25, 2008

This week, I've been different.

Well, actually, I've been in the minority for a mere two days -- Tuesday and Wednesday -- but these two days seemed like two weeks.

Explain to me how, in this age where schematics can be sent to Jack Bauer's PDA instantaneously, it was necessary to send me out of the Electroencephalography (in short, EEG) lab with a small briefcase and clunky rainbow-colored wires attached to my head that looked more like something resembling life support than a tool used to measure electrical activity in the brain over the course of two days (called an ambulatory EEG).

The test was conducted as a follow-up to a seizure I had one year ago.

Medical history aside, being "different" is an experience, especially when you have a four-and-a-half-year-old kid standing on the table six inches from your face while you wait for your oil change staring at you with eyes bigger than walnuts and his parents doing the same thing.

If anything, the experience gives you an appreciation and a soft spot for those that have no control over their physical appearance for much longer than a two-day timespan, especially as we live in a society so self-conscious with outward appearance. Stares were the norm, double glances came in bunches, while the woman serving me an iced coffee spoke to me as if she were speaking to the child that had been eyeing my "deformity" while I awaited my oil change.

What if we embraced this culture -- one where we see someone so-called "different" from ourselves? One man at the same coffee shop asked me about my contraption. I thought about giving him a hug, but passed, given that that decision could contradict my whole cultural norms argument. Of course, we're inclined to feel extremely awkward and terrible about ourselves if the answer were to lend itself to a much less favorable outcome than my situation. But what if we didn't feel so awkward?

I've previously taken offense to people that label St. Olaf as the "blonde" school. Everybody is the "same," they say, but maybe there is some truth to that. As admissions standards get tougher, this is bound to change, but diversity doesn't do anyone any good unless people make an effort to embrace it. Ask questions. Be engaging in the differences that not only are masked and hidden, but are very visible and those that may appear obscure.

As for one that has been in the different crowd -- and if you've seen me you'd place me there too -- this type of engagement is appreciated. Instead of the "you're different" stares, it's a favor to inquire, to show a genuine interest in a routine interaction instead of labeling with insensitive body language.

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