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Every so often, I read about the latest tragedy or human rights violation that has been plastered all over the headlines. Every single time, a part of me hurts, not just for those that suffer, but because of my idealism. As functioning members of our community, our natural instincts lead us to the desire to help the less fortunate. But also as people without access to extraordinary resources, a sense of helplessness can often overpower this desire. 

How can we, as ordinary individuals in society, possibly do anything to even make a small contribution to helping those involved in a catastrophe halfway across the world? Anyone can make a $10 donation, or post an infographic on their social media, but how can we be sure that we’re changing even one person’s life? We’re just everyday people with the intentions and aspirations of heroes trapped in a box of powerlessness. It can be easy to be restricted by the confines of mediocracy. I, myself, have often been troubled by this plight of being an average person, whose ambitions and desires soar far past the reality of my resources. 

While this dilemma may be age-old, fortunately, the present society we live in is far from average. These days, the idea of ‘normal’ has been repurposed into a malleable belief. In a world where a person can turn into a global celebrity merely by starting an account on social media, being known, or simply bigger than yourself, is no longer an aspiration, but an expectation. With the dawn of social media, as people who may seem every day, the one thing that we now have is immediate access to other people. 

The days of being restricted to the community we live around are far gone, as the potential attention of the entire world lies in a small device in our pocket. Even individuality itself is bigger than what it used to be. We have the freedom to pick and choose how others perceive us. Exposing only the parts of ourselves we wish for others to see, we’ve turned our identity into a brand of a sort. As we cultivate our own personal brands, we’ve now progressed into an age where what sets us apart is now something that we can celebrate. In a way, uniqueness is the new normal, and we’re no longer doomed to the fate of blending into the crowd. 

Living during the era of social media has redefined what it truly means to be ordinary. Although we may be people whose biggest worry at the moment is paying the next bill or studying for an exam, we also carry the power to influence millions without having to expend resources we don’t have. We have the ability to be the heroes we’ve strived to be. In fact, the entire #MeToo movement that created a new age for the discussion of sexual assault was started simply by a MySpace page. Simply by catching the attention of other people, it is possible to turn your idea into a phenomenon.

But everyone’s vision of who they want to be is not the same. My own version of seeing myself as a hero would be helping others who are suffering from tragedies around the world, more than by simply sharing a dwindling message on the internet. But being a hero is not confined to the idea of service to others. There is heroism in our everyday life. The idea of living an ‘average life’ has been viewed as negative for so long that we tend to forget the strength and bravery that comes with living it. For those that struggle with mental illness, the mere act of getting out of bed every day makes them a hero. The college student handling school while working to support themselves is nothing short of a hero. Just as the idea of being a simple individual doesn’t exist anymore, we’ve all earned the title of being heroes in our own right. 

So if your aspirations are to help refugees in a foreign country, work hard and achieve success in your field or simply to muster up enough strength to get your homework done for the day, it’s all possible. And all of it is extraordinary. We are bigger than we view ourselves to be, and we can do more than we think as well. We are all heroes in our own right, simply by making a positive difference in our own lives and those of people around us. If the new ‘normal’ is being ourselves, then being normal is no longer something to be ashamed of. 

Sreelakshmi Panicker is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at ​​