Niche or nothing

Image from author.

In ecology, a niche is all of the biotic and abiotic factors an organism needs to exist. But I’m not a scientist. I’m the farthest thing from it. I can barely spell the word without spell check. So for credibility reasons, I will not be exploring the makeup of our pale blue dot and the intertwining factors that keep the plants and animals on it alive. But I am a human and I do exist in a society, so my understanding of the sociological definition of niche is a little bit more comprehensive. And I happen to have found my social niche. 

I work at a bookstore. While reading may not be a particularly unique niche, it’s still mine. I feel the most at home at my job, working with people who are like second moms to me and talking to strangers about a common interest. I understand the things I work with. The one place I voluntarily return to, week after week, is my job. 

But what does having this niche do for me? Why go out into the world to find a second home? For that exact reason: To find a second home. People need an escape. It’s important to have something you can turn to when your first home becomes uninhabitable. I know that my job makes me a better person. When you’re around people and things you love, it’s hard to be a miserable pessimist. You can’t be sad when everything around you makes you happy. 

I want to be clear that a niche doesn’t have to be a place. A niche can be a form of artistic expression, a sport, a theory. All a niche is is something you love unconditionally. Maybe you’re really into 60s jazz music or competitive bowling. It doesn’t matter, as long as you love it on your own. 

Having a bizarre niche is also entertaining, by the way. Imagine walking into a party and being able to recite the entirety of Washington’s “Farewell Address” because you happen to be a history buff. That’s just fun. 

Finding your niche also comes with finding a community, a support group. Take my job, for example. By finding this place where I was the most true to myself, I found others who share mindsets similar to mine and whom I now have strong relationships with. Like attracts like. Finding a group of people who you can be yourself around is more important than you think. Humans are social creatures and we need to interact to survive. So you might as well interact with people who understand your mind. 

Without an outlet, your creativity or anger or excitement will build up until it explodes. Am I saying you’re going to die without a niche? Maybe! I wouldn’t know because I have my niche. And I’m very much alive. 

If you happen to have already found your niche, congratulations! You’re ahead of the curve. If not, this is your sign. Go explore. Find what makes your heart whole and your soul happy.

Sarah Hamilton is a junior at Washington High School and has lived in the Bay Area for the majority of her life. This is her first year working on The Hatchet and she hopes to write about her opinions and cover global topics. She is a captain of the girls tennis team and works at the bookshop in town. Sarah is an avid reader of novels by Haruki Murakami and loves going to concerts and exploring San Francisco and Berkeley. She hopes to attend college on the East Coast and major in English with a minor in economics or publishing.

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