My 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!by