Countless mugs, posters and notebooks have been plastered with inspirational quotes about how being unique is important, because everyone else is taken.
Bold of them to assume that everyone wants to be different.
Well, individuality has always been a treasured trait.
It defines who you are, and even if it doesn’t make you more unique than the person next to you, it gives you a sense of purpose.
However, there’s always a fear of being left out.
The way it influences certain choices in education, careers, and even hobbies and love, can be seen emphasised across all levels of society -- and among friends and family.
Choosing a career opens doors to more scrutiny as well.
Going with the flow seems easier, as our survival instincts tell us we should make the most optimal choice to survive.
It doesn’t always have to be that way, however.
Take a look at Cai Yinzhou, for example, who started the Geylang Adventures seeking to show Geylang in a new light.
Determined to showcase Geylang to be more than just a red-light district, he now regularly conducts tours for groups of visitors around the area, including little-known back allies and into the homes of welcoming strangers.
He takes the chance to advocate for several causes he is passionate about, such as equalising migrant low-wage workers and locals.
Amanda Chong, started ReadAble in 2014, a project teaching underprivileged children how to read, running weekly reading and language arts classes for children aged two to 12.
Chong’s project seeks to bridge the gap of inequality within the local community, supporting underprivileged children and their families.
She noted that the “way we respond to this crisis of story borne from inequality is a defining moment for Singapore and a true test of our values as a nation”.
What the two have in common is that they’re both winners of the National Youth Council’s Singapore Youth Award.
The Singapore Youth Award is the nation’s highest accolade for youth, honouring exceptional young people who enrich the hearts and souls of the community and bring distinction to the nation.
You can vote for the story that inspires you the most here.
It might sound daunting to follow your heart, but the reward is seeing your efforts translate into a legitimate impact on the world that we live in.
Take SYA 2019 finalist Elisha Tan, for example.
Tan’s first company, Learnemy was a peer-to-peer marketplace where users could learn skills from a community.
It was modestly successful, but the platform struggled to grow and she was forced to learn how to code from scratch when she could not find a technical co-founder.
Despite her best efforts and even moving to Silicon Valley to save the company, she had to close Learnemy four years later.
A company that she managed to get into afterwards also asked her to leave six months into the job.
She picked herself up from the lowest part of her life, reaching out to her tech contacts, learning from her failures and remembering why she started it all.
Her passion to help others and entrepreneurial zeal would lead her to start TechLadies in February 2016, which is a community-led initiative for women programmers to connect, learn and advance their skills in programming.
The first boot camp TechLadies held had an overwhelming response, with more than 100 women registering their interest for nine spots in the 12-week programme.
TechLadies has also been able to take on meaningful projects, such as improving the database for the Humanitarian Organization for Migrant Economics (HOME) which it uses to track cases of domestic workers facing abuse from employers.
Your story is going to differ from theirs, but the spirit and passion of your dreams are what’s worth recognising - even in the wildest ideas such as living out of a van on a road trip around the world.
Take a look at this year’s finalists and get inspired by stories just like Tan’s.
Even if you don’t think you’re gunning for an award, this might be the right time for you to take the path less travelled, closer to your heart.
To quote a particular comic, we can’t all save the world, but we make it a world worth saving.
This post is brought to you by NYC, who supports those who dare to dream differently.
Top image via Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay