Saturday, October 22, 2011

Darling, it really is OK to be different...

Eccentric. Weird. Strange. A bit wacky. Unusual. Unique. Different... All these words (and more) have been used to describe me.

Which isn't to say that I look especially different. In fact, I would hazard that I look pretty much like a regular person (no purple hair or multiple piercings, clothes fairly normal too) except for the fact that I'm 5ft 2in small, which makes me three or four inches shorter than your average Western woman. Oh, and there's also one small and extremely discreet tattoo.

But apart from these minor details, I would hazard that I look like most 38 year old mothers - slightly harassed, my eyes a bit bruised-looking due to never getting the idyllic-sounding eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted sleep, and sporting an inevitable Weetabix smear somewhere on my person, landed on me by one or more of my perpetually grimy children.

So why the constant references by other people to the fact that they think I'm somewhat unusual?

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.

My upbringing wasn't exactly average, that's true, but neither was it extraordinary; I know plenty of people with more radical childhoods than mine - one girl I worked with was brought up in a commune and digested Greenpeace slogans along with her mother's milk, another was raised by two mothers and saw her sperm-father only on her birthday, and yet another was so incredibly well-heeled she felt obliged to invite a European Prince to her wedding.

In comparison, the fact that I have three passports, moved around a lot as a kid and have a parent who refused to allow a television in the house - rendering me eternally clueless when it comes to memory-lane conversations about the glories of 1980s telly - is all a bit lame really.

In terms of personality, the only things that aren't entirely run-of-the-mill is the fact that I'm quite creative, can't tell my left from my right or remember number sequences, have an above-average ability to focus, a keen bullshit-ometer and don't place too much importance on adhering to conventional belief or value systems. Oh, and I have a somewhat random sense of humour. But again, these are hardly unheard of traits.

Over the years I've grown to accept my perceived eccentricities and to make the most of what makes me a bit different. But it was hard as a child when the herd mentality reigns and conformity is King. I still remember agonizing about feeling different and being teased for being small, having curly hair and, most horrific of all, having a French accent (when my family first moved to the United Kingdom after a few years in Switzerland).

Which is why I felt it keenly when my middle child recently announced, somewhat plaintively, that she is different to everyone else and that she doesn't like it, not one bit. And why, she exclaimed, is she so different when all she wants is to be just like everyone else? She couldn't put it into exact words, poor soul, just that it was an unshakable feeling, this sense of being 'other', and that it causes her no end of grief.

All I could tell her is that at some point, as she matures and becomes increasingly whole, the opinion of those around her will matter less and less; the exception being those people who she truly loves and values (and if she is wise, she will create an inner circle comprised of people who accept and adore her for her true self).

When that point comes my daughter will learn to love her quirks and idiosyncrasies as being things that make her the unique person she is, and she will then realize that being the same as everyone else - being one of the herd - is the last thing she wants. She will suddenly understand that difference and diversity is what makes life so interesting, and this understanding will help to vanquish most of her deeply-buried fears.

I'll be there every step of the way, regardless, however hard her journey proves to be. I understand, you see - been there and worn that t-shirt - and I know the beauty of being released from that particular hang-up- that release brings with it a wonderful feeling of being centered and secure in your own self. It's a journey well worth taking.


Daddy Papersurfer said...

"discreet tattoo"!!! *faints*

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