Sounding Off: The struggle of when a niche becomes a rut

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Pictured is a woman who’s seemingly frustrated at her laptop. This can happen often if you’ve exhausted all ideas possible in one specific “genre,” and don’t know what to do next. Just take a step back and start over. Photo credit goes to Andrea Piacquadio

It’s at times like these that I am grateful I have retooled my column in the way that I have. To give some background, I’ve had a column here at The Daily Campus for about a year now, and up until recently, I always tried to write to a specific theme. First I had “Then and Now,” where I connected historical topics to modern day, and then I had “Daily Campus History,” where I did basically the same thing, but with an even more specialized subject matter. After almost two semesters of this kind of writing, I felt like I was cranking out weekly columns purely because I had carved this niche for myself and that that’s where I belonged. Once this mentality set in, I had no motivation left to write, and that’s when I realized I needed to broaden my scope. 

The idea that we’re all on a journey to discover our place in this world feels way too simplified for the complex phenomenon that is life. Why can’t we all fit into multiple places in the world? My high school used the word “niche” frequently to refer to finding where one is comfortable in life, and the idea behind that makes sense, but doesn’t that also promote a mindset where once someone is comfortable, they should be satisfied? 

When I got the privilege of becoming a weekly columnist at The Daily Campus, I for some reason felt obligated to create content that all fit together. I leaned into the identity that I was a resident historian, and that I needed to somehow incorporate this into all of my writing. Don’t get me wrong, history is still a large part of what I’m passionate about, and it wasn’t history itself that I became tired of – it was the necessity to conform to my created structure. 

What I’m trying to get to is this: For about a year I chose what was supposedly most comfortable, and it turned out that it made me lose motivation. Since I have transitioned my column into “Sounding Off,” I feel that I have been able to once again address issues and topics that are important to me without having to worry about everything fitting into the same archetype. For example, this week’s column is a stream-of-consciousness essay about getting stuck in one’s own rut, while for next week I’m developing a critique of high school history education based on conversations I’ve had with peers. 

As UConn and every other college begins another semester, it’s important to try to stay away from fitting ourselves into one singular box. Focusing on one specific goal in life that’s supposed to make a person comfortable or satisfied only leads to burnout, and that idea can be applied in so many ways. 

True liberal arts education is a great way to combat this problem. Allowing students to experience a multitude of subjects while they get to interact with peers who might be pursuing completely opposite dreams is very healthy! 

The bottom line of this run-on article is that we should not be afraid to take a step outside our niches, but we also need to understand that a foot outside the door can still be attached to a foot inside. We don’t have to settle for one or the other, we just need to explore further than the first thing we can think will satisfy us, because more than one thing certainly will. 

It’s human nature to get stuck in a rut from time to time. Inability to find motivation, fear of failure, general dejectedness and many other negative feelings are all valid, and often the solution on how to get out of the rut is far from simple. The one thing that certainly can be done is to make sure that the rut isn’t really just a safe niche. 

So go ahead, scrap that idea you’ve been wrestling with for a while and start completely from scratch, pick up that hobby you’ve been meaning to try and call that friend you haven’t talked to in years. Life’s finest moments don’t come from the maintenance of the status quo, they come when a person decides to leave the security blanket behind and be free. 

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