Jun 01

Free To Be Me

More than Idle Chit ChatMy kids are not quite normal.

I say that with great affection and pride. I like to refer to them as quirky and I will occasionally laugh fondly with my friends about some of their not-quite-mainstream habits or comments, but underneath I am very proud that they are confident enough to be who they are and not act a certain way just to fit in with the majority.

My children are only young (still in primary school) and I hope that the self-belief I see in them now will sustain them through high school and the difficulties I know they will face  as teens and adults if they continue to march to the beat of a different drum – the crises of confidence, the bouts of self-doubt, the friends that will distance themselves and criticise.

How do I know that this is what is ahead for my children? Because at the grand old age of.. ahem.. almost 40, I’m still experiencing the hurtful feedback that can come from people who are threatened by those who don’t conform. You see, I’m not quite normal myself.

“What’s normal? There is no normal?” I hear you cry, and you’re right. When we get down to it, we’re all individuals (except for that guy in the crowd in The Life of Brian), but generally speaking some personalities and preferences are ‘more’ normal than others and seem to cause fewer waves.

I’ve been told more than once, including several times recently, that I need to try harder to fit in with what others are doing. That I should attend events that don’t interest me because they interest the majority, will give me an opportunity to connect with others and I might just find that I enjoy myself if I would simply stop being so difficult. A grain of truth in there? Quite possibly, but there is also a rather disheartening message that not only do I not know my own mind, but I would benefit from being less like myself and more like everyone else.

It’s a kind of harsh message to give someone, don’t you think? – You’re okay, but you’d really be much nicer if you were more like everyone else.

I’m really not quite sure what it is exactly about my personality that has led others to offer me this helpful piece of advice over the years. Maybe I’m too outspoken. I have strong opinions on many topics, but I’d like to think that I’m happy for others to have strong opinions too. I do love a good debate and it’s a little hard to debate someone who agrees with you whole-heartedly and without reservation.

I’m also not good at small talk, especially the kind of superficial chatter that often happens in large groups of women, but I LOVE to really talk with someone and get to know them better – to chat about what is really important to them and learn about what makes them tick. I love to have my own horizons expanded by hearing about the experiences and passions of others.

I am passionate about the written word (both as a writer and reader), have an almost overwhelming love of knowledge and abhorrence of ignorance, have an offbeat sense of humour and exceptionally daggy taste in music.

Today, as I have once again justified to others and myself my decision to not attend a particular social event, I have been left feeling a little bit less than I was at the start of the day – a little bit less valued, a little bit less worthwhile, a little bit less likeable. No doubt I will wake in the morning once again ready to face the day with a smile on my face, but for now I’m feeling just a little down.

I know that I’m not alone and that there are many quirky, amazing, incredible people out there. I salute you, all of you, as you live your lives with a personal integrity that helps you to stand tall and true in the face of the confused looks and undermining words of others.

Vive la différence!

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  1. life in a pink fibro

    I salute you back. People always seek to undermine what they don’t understand. But there’s no rule that everyone has to be an open book – and a chatty, flirty novel at that. Keep doing it your way Susan – it’s the only way that’s right for you.
    .-= life in a pink fibro´s last blog ..Me + Florence Nightingale = Different =-.

  2. Kylie L

    I love Al’s comment…. it’s what I would have said, except less eloquently. As the mother of a son who went to school last week wearing my nightie under his clothes, I hear you. It’s hard to swim against the tide, even in little ways- I SO wanted to tell him to take it off, but had to bite my tongue.
    We respect and *enjoy* you for who you are. Don’t change that. Life would be so boring if we were all the same.

  3. Susan

    Thanks for your support Alison and Kylie. Just one of those days when it all just seems too hard, I guess.

    Will rally to the challenge again tomorrow, but for now thank you so much for your kind, encouraging words.

  4. Annieb25

    Susan, you have just described my kids and to some degree me. I hate inane small talk, but love love love interesting conversations with like minded people. I am quirky, have a warped sense of humour and take pleasure in saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times. I don’t have Tourette’s (not that there is anything wrong with that). Be yourself and do what makes you happy. Life is too short to waste attending events to make other people happy. I salute who you are. xx
    .-= Annieb25´s last blog ..Periods, Tampons & Feminine Hygiene =-.

    1. Susan

      Thanks Annie. I love a well placed ‘inappropriate’ comment. Life is too short to be serious all the time. 🙂

  5. Seraphimsp

    I think you are utterly delightful. I read your self description and we are almost mirrors. No one should have to subscribe to other people’s definitions of socially acceptable if it isn’t right for them.
    .-= Seraphimsp´s last blog ..A special book stack =-.

    1. Susan

      Thanks Sarah. I think you’re rather lovely too. 🙂

      One of the reasons I enjoy Twitter so much is that it has helped me find my ‘tribe’. It’s kind of reassuring to chat with other people who share my slightly lop-sided view of the world.

      MWAH! right back at you. 🙂

  6. Tracy

    You know what I love about social networks like Twitter (don’t worry, I’m working towards a point about your post…lol)?

    It has afforded me the incredible pleasure, through some strange little-understood (by me) process, of discovering other quirky individuals…like me! Like you! Like Annie and Al and Kylie and all the others who slipped in here ahead of me.

    Some of us are more like you than others – I, for example, am your twin, separated at birth.

    And while our ‘thang’ is that we can be perfectly happy in our own world, not trying to fit into social norms (in my family, we say ‘normal’ is bad language)and often uncomfortable with small talk, with like-minded people we can revel in the experience of exchanging ideas and words and feelings.

    So, what I’m trying to say in a realllly roundabout way is – don’t worry about going out to be social. Stay in and party with us quirky sorts…. 🙂

    PS. Tho’ a tweetup with some of these fine tweeps would be rather awesome…as long as there was a quiet corner or two, and I could leave early when people started hanging from the chandeliers….

    PPS. I see my eloquent and individual boyo has to travel this road, too – more obvious since he started school this year. It’s okay, ‘cos I can share the map with him.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Going Naked =-.

    1. Susan

      I’ve always wanted a twin.

      All of us quirky people together could get quite scary (or alternatively we’d all be sitting quietly off to the side people-watching and not actually talking to anyone else). 🙂

  7. Hear Mum Roar

    I can relate to much of this. I think it can be hard to raise non conformist kids, but the older they get, the more it pays off
    .-= Hear Mum Roar´s last blog ..Time to rediscover the old me =-.

    1. Susan

      I’m hoping that battling through the tough stuff will pay off with my kids. It’s early days for me yet, but I’m hoping that we’ll get to the other side proud of what we’ve achieved together and without too many battle scars.

  8. Meredith

    You want I should beat someone up? I would you know. It would make the news – Mad Woman Attacks Fine Upstanding Citizen. Blames “Quirky Hermit”.

    You are a good person. You do so much for others. Some folk can’t see beyond the people shouting about their beliefs to see someone quietly living them.

    1. Susan

      You know, it’s almost worth encouraging you to pick that fight just to be able to see that headline in the paper. Tempting, but I probably shouldn’t.

  9. Jayne Kearney

    And as I read this I thought, “what? Who is this woman talking about? Because the Susan I know (online AND IRL) is quite simply 33 shades of awesome.”

    But I do hear you. And send ((hugs)).

    FWIW – every time my kids do something conformist my heart gets sad. I ADORE non-conformists and wish that for my kids – which may seem crazy but it’s the non-conformists who set the world alight IMO.
    Embrace that in yourself and your darling kids (which I know you do when all is said and done. :-))

    Great blog post! xx

    1. Susan

      33 shades of awesome? Why, I’m touched. 🙂

      I know it’s worth it to stand tall in the crowd. Like you, I want that for my kids as well and I can’t expect it of them if I don’t do it myself.

      Thanks so much for your encouragement Jayne. It means a lot.

  10. Jules

    You’ve written what I’ve often thought. I’ve even wondered if it’s ‘cultural’ because in Oz I had like-minded friends, but here no one seems to understand me! However as I’ve gotten older (yes I’m older than you at ‘… ahem … almost 40’) I’ve learnt to accept myself for who I am and not to worry about what others think. On the other hand, I’ve also stepped out and tried some of the things that they find pleasure in (some of those ‘social events’ but only as long as they don’t involve idle chit chat – ugh!) and have found that I can enjoy some things that I wouldn’t naturally do. However, I still retain the right to not like those things and not be considered abnormal because of it.

    Susan, I only met you briefly, but I’ve read your blog, and I think you’re am amazing woman (and that’s not just because you gave me a wonderful review which I’m not sure I deserved!).

    Be you. Be proud to be you. And continue to let your kids be who God made them to be.

    Blessings, Jules

  11. Rachel

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing 🙂 I think it’s great you do your own thing. I find we just need to learn to ignore those who feel that conformity is important – it’s not. It’s boring. Live for you, not for others!

  12. Leoni

    Excellent. As a mum & a primary school teacher I deeply feel the emotions of my own kids and the kids I teach . As a child now an adult, I’ve always felt a bit different yet known I was special … and blessed. Might sound selfish, but I think it helps me understand others and love and appreciate their ways.

    1. Susan

      How wonderful that your students have a teacher who appreciates them for all their quirks. While it’s always important to be considerate to others and to stretch ourselves by doing new and challenging things, I think it’s also wonderful to simply be comfortable with who we are and its such a blessing to have others around us who will encourage us to be true to the person we were created to be.

      Thanks for calling in to say Hi and for your encouragement. 🙂

  13. Bern

    I’m like you. My husband would tell you otherwise, but he basically says nothing in social situations. Not because he’s rude, but because he’s just incredibly shy and quiet. So in a way I overcompensate which leads to me babbling and talking too much shit.

    To be honest, unless it’s my close friends these days, I would much rather curl up on the couch and watch tv or read or blog or whatever.

    Sometimes too, you get to know someone and you wished you had stopped at the acquaintance stage. Well that’s me anyway.

    Keep doing what makes you happy!!
    .-= Bern´s last blog ..HAPPY BIRTHVERSARY =-.

  14. Violet

    I can SO relate to what you wrote.

    That whole performance of the social nicety thing, where you pretend to be someone else so people will like you (because you don’t challenge them in any way, and reinforce their own view of the world), is so fake.

    I prefer genuine to fake.

  15. Jodie at Mummy Mayhem

    I don’t mind a little chit chat about nothing in particular, but I also LOVE a good, hearty talk with a friend or family member. When my sister or my MIL come over from Perth, we spend a lot of time talking about…stuff…in detail. Because they stay with us, we have the time. Often, when catching up with friends, it’s too quick for a proper talk, or if in a group, there are certain subjects I won’t necessarily feel comfortable about talking about.

    Great post lovely. xx
    .-= Jodie at Mummy Mayhem´s last blog ..Scammers Are Everywhere =-.