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Being the Cheese

mentor motivation Sep 02, 2019

By Karen Eden

This column originally ran in the November 2015 issue of MASuccess and is being reprinted here because of its popularity.


Those who know me have learned to accept me with all my eccentricities. So I know that, as many years have gone by, surely they must be true friends. But for those who desire to know me better, I always air a disclaimer.

I’m a different breed of person. It used to bother me early in life, but now I am comfortable with that fact, and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

I often think about how much time it would save if I could just hand out a resume to everyone who wants to know me better. That way, if I wasn’t their “cup of tea,” they could just never call me. I wouldn’t be offended!

I am a deeply religious person. I’m also a diehard traditional martial arts woman with a master’s rank in a Korean, military-based, hand-to-hand combat art.

If that isn’t scary enough to the average person, I’m also an extremely picky eater. I don’t “do” preservatives and artificial ingredients. I also don’t particularly care for parties. I don’t like hugging people I don’t know, and I’m a nightmare when it comes to talking about nothing, aka “small talk.”

Some of the labels my closest acquaintances have given me are “party pooper” and “the hermit.” My feelings aren’t hurt because it’s all true.

Initially, you don’t want anybody to know that you’re not like everybody else because it can get pretty lonely out there.

But it was a children’s song called The Farmer in the Dell that made me seriously ponder the act of trying to be like everybody else.

In this song, “the cheese stands alone.” In my opinion, it wasn’t fair that the cheese had to stand alone, but he did, period. The song ends there. I must admit that I myself have felt like the cheese many times.

It’s pretty amazing how a dairy product could have such a huge impact on one’s life, but “being the cheese” is a huge message of self-discovery, and many people go through their entire life without ever experiencing this discovery.

Being the cheese can be a very lonely journey. Most likely, you will not win any popularity contests, and many times when you stand, you won’t just stand alone; you will stand totally alone.

Being the cheese can also feel like mental bondage. More often than not, you’re constantly asking yourself, “Did I do the right thing?” But I have discovered that if I can listen through all the noise, there’s always that whisper deep down inside that answers back, “Yes, you did!”

Being the cheese isn’t fun, and it isn’t the least stressful path to travel. So why would anybody choose to be the cheese?

Looking back, I can see that everything I’ve ever achieved wasn’t because I was like everybody else; it was because I wasn’t like everybody else.

As much as I’ve always admired those whose journeys were uncomplicated and smooth, I’ve come to accept that “Easy Street” has never been my journey — and probably never will be.

Bottom line: The biggest accomplishments of my life were always because I was willing to take the chance of standing alone, and I had no fear of what others might think or say about it.

Have I been victorious in every undertaking? Absolutely not! But I will be able to go to my grave someday knowing that I stood for what I felt was right, and I at least always attempted to do what I felt I had to do.

If I could write a follow-up to The Farmer in the Dell, it would be about how the cheese that once stood alone became a real success — independent of the farmer, his wife, his child, the nurse, the cow, the dog, the cat and the rat.

It would be about how the cheese’s strength and fearlessness enabled it to become the “Big Cheese.” Hats off to the cheese for being true to itself.


You can contact Master Karen Eden at [email protected].

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