I’ve always felt like the odd one out, among friends, family and work colleagues. I still do sometimes, but not as often nowadays, not since I found my tribe.
I’m not cool, I never have been, I was the nerd in the corner who was still on the sports teams with the ‘cool’ kids and was often up on stage playing the bassoon. I didn’t fit with the cool kids though, and was happier with the nerds playing cards. But I was still friends with the cool kids, mostly. I didn’t really fit in though so school was an experience I’m glad I don’t have to repeat.
But that’s ok, I don’t want to be cool, I want to be me. I’m my very own point in a Venn diagram and I’m quite happy here, you’re welcome to join me, it’s a bit surreal but it’s fun.
We all feel like the odd one out at school, some kids are confident in their ability to attract people, be friends, talk, and so on. I have no idea what that’s like, I have never been confident around people. I have always felt slightly clumsy when I’m talking to people, even when I know them well. When you’re young it’s uncomfortable to stand out, to feel different – and we don’t realise that everyone else is feeling the same thing. What we should tell kids is that they won’t always feel like this, that there are lots of other people out there who are just like them and they need to find them – they just need to find their tribe. I found some of my tribe during school years, most I found later.As I got older I didn’t get any better at fitting in, I just went to different places and found people who were like me, the people who understand where I’m coming from and can keep up with my train of thought, which admittedly gets rather random at times. My tribe are a disparate bunch of friends around the globe who I adore. I don’t always see them, and I’ve lost some in recent years, but they’re still my tribe.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the same as other people; and I certainly don’t want to conform. Why do I want to be like everyone else? I’m not a clone, I’m unique. Just like you are. Being different is good, it means there’s variety in the world. Doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with everyone, or if nobody agrees with you. So what? I disagree with friends all the time, they’re still my friends.
I was asked a number of years ago to describe myself using just one word. Stumped me for a while, but I eventually came up with ‘contradiction’. I am a contradiction, that’s ok.
I like all kinds of music and I don’t really care what anyone thinks, and I will dance around the kitchen, and be first up on the dance floor, but even with 10 years of dance training and 10 years of yoga I’m still clumsy. I’m actually a shy introvert (in a family of loud extroverts), but I have years of experience being on stage which helps me do my job. I have a quirky sense of humour that a lot of people don’t get. I agree with the vegan philosophy but can’t give up proper chocolate or pizza (or prawn crackers…shhhh!). I’d rather watch cricket or tennis than football (but yes, I can explain the offside rule, I used to play hockey). I’m not going to watch a horror movie or the latest slapstick comedy movie, but I’ll happily watch most other things, especially if it’s action or SciFi. I love shoes but can’t be bothered with shopping. Arrogance is my least favourite trait, but I’ve managed to date a few arrogant jerks along the way. As I said, I’m my own space in a Venn diagram – come join me, there will be dancing and there will be cake!
What we should tell kids is that they will feel awkward and out of place when they’re not the same as everyone else, because the world puts pressure on us to conform. There is no need to conform to anything but explicit rules (laws etc) – you are exactly who you should be, you are you and that’s brilliant, don’t conform or change just because someone else or society thinks you should.
And practice the reverse – accept people for who they are. If you don’t want them to change you, don’t expect them to be ok with you trying to change them. People change as they evolve anyway, but it’s a natural process dependent on experience. I’m not much like the person I was at 18, but that’s ok, I quite like me now.
We all look around us and think everyone looks like they know what they’re doing. We see people in groups, talking confidently to one another and assume that they know what they’re doing within that group. As kids we look at grown-ups and think they’ve got it together, they know what they’re doing and they’re always right. It’s a good job we don’t know the reality when we’re kids: sometimes adults do know what they’re doing, but appearances are so misleading and most of the time us ‘grown-ups’ are just making it up as we go along.
I’m not sure most of us discover what it’s like to be an adult until we are in our 30’s, we suddenly find ourselves in a position we can label as ‘grown-up; we might have houses, jobs, cars, kids, some of you are married or cohabiting etc. We suddenly realise that onlookers see us as adults, and it’s really disconcerting because we suddenly realise we’re still making it up as we go along. You then realise that your parents, those people who always seemed so full of answers, they probably felt the same too. Relationships and kids don’t come with manuals, jobs might have manuals but they’re fairly vague when it comes to the nitty gritty of daily work. We don’t have manuals for life, it’s all just guess work – some people guess better than others.
I’m me, I finally no longer care how I sit in relation to others. A friend from work also writes a blog on her journey to recovery, and her last post was about comparison with others – it’s a lovely, eloquent piece and you should read it (https://thecrossfitscientist.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/every-little-helps/). The message is simple though – don’t compare yourself to anyone, just be you. It gets easier to do as you get older. Promise.
It took me until I was 34 to find the place in the world I wanted to live, where I feel at home. Finding out who you are takes a lifetime, being comfortable with who you are hopefully takes less drama than it took with me. I love my tribe – and I’m still collecting members…who’s in?Who you are is exactly who you should be. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.