My father, who was not what you could call a conformist to society’s norms by any stretch of the imagination, told me all too often while growing up and as an adult that I was just about a half a bubble off center.
No…he didn’t mean it as a compliment.
It meant that I was doing things he didn’t understand or like that his son was doing, especially one that shared his name.
Looking back, I have to agree with his biting observations. I was always just about a half bubble off center. Back then it hurt, because I was attempting so hard to fit in and didn’t. Whether it was maturity issues, seeing the world differently, being a day dreamer, getting lost in a book or marching to the beat of a different drummer, it always seemed that I was the person on the outside looking in throughout most of my life.
Now, I don’t care if people think I am a bit odd — I am.
How do we thrive in a world that often misunderstands us or we don’t fit into?
It ain’t easy.
To survive I learned to hide who I was and became a chameleon adapting to wherever I was at the time. In other words fake it until you make it.
Stop to think about how difficult and tiring it is to be different from others in your family, social circles, neighborhood or place of work. The things you don’t or can’t discuss because you would be ostracized or ridiculed for. When I did talk about or do some of the odd things that interest me, others have looked at me with ill-disguised contempt or nastiness, while some choose to ignore my eccentricities as best they could — after all I couldn’t be a complete oddball and still be their friend or family.
Having experienced both, I learned to be quiet and conformed a even more to other’s expectations, while keeping a close guard on who I was.
You try to fit in as best you can, until you can’t.
What do you do then?
You become like a butterfly flitting from this to that, seeming to always be searching for the “right” place, relationship, work or other interests that would be where I finally belonged. In other words escape, run away, change where you live, change the people you are around, or work someplace else and then repeat. Then there was always the pull of the bottom of a bottle to drown or dull the feelings that welled up inside when things got too difficult.
Yet, at some point in our lives, you have to stop running from yourself. I have learned that is who you are running from, because what others judge you doesn’t matter — it is how you react to their comments and attitudes. Discovering who the person in the mirror is and finding a way to become who or what that person is the hard part.
When my brother-in-law died unexpectedly a few years ago, I had to face my own mortality and other things. His death made me realize that life is too short to keep trying to fit into someone else’s mold or expectations of who I am. It was then that knew that I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to be happy for the rest of the time I had left on this little blue marble.
The biggest thing I have learned since then is that people don’t give a rat’s arse about who you really are. Most will let you live your life the way you want and the ones who attempt to change you have their own agenda or don’t have your best interests in mind.
It primarily came down to that I had to find the courage to stop attempting to be someone or something I am not — to please others.
We have to make the choices to accept who we are and what we want from life, no one else can do the work for us. People can either like who I am with all my oddness, warts, eccentricities, and goodness or it becomes their problem — not mine.
That change in mindset has made all the difference for me.
It started me down some paths that I would have avoided in the past and opened my eyes to what is important in my life. Now living is less about attempting to fit into what others believe I should be or trying to be a part of worlds that I don’t fit into.
Now I am focusing on the things that are worthwhile or important to me.
Things that I care about.
What Did I Learn?
Am I still a bit odd?
Absolutely…and always will be.
The big difference is now I rather like who I have become and being a bit odd is a good part of who I am — not a bad thing.
I will never be rich, famous or even all that popular beyond the very small circle of people who know me well. Yet, my life is good and the paths I am choosing, while not well travelled have a few footprints on them. Which tells me there are a few others headed in the same direction that I seem to be going, which is good too. I may be a bit odd, but it doesn’t mean I want to be completely by myself.
It took a long time for me to reach this realization, but maybe writing about it will help someone else realize that being a bit odd isn’t a bad thing and that most people don’t care if you are.
However, you do have to learn that those who belittle or attempt to change you for their own purposes are the ones that to be avoided or kept at arms length. It can be hard to do when they are family or co-workers, but it can be done.
Friends…if they are true friends they will stand by you and help you along your journey even if you are a bit odd. If not, I question whether they are your friend. Sometimes hard choices are made when we start thinking about what direction we want or need to take our lives.
Now I am that old odd guy that always seems to be walking his dog around the neighborhood , running someplace and waving to the traffic as they go by, with a smile on my face. Yeah, I smile a lot more than I used to even with all the crap going on in the world today.
I have made the choice to enjoy the life I am making for myself and from where I sit, my being a bit odd is a necessary part of it to let the whole me show through.
What do you think, is being a bit odd, just a part of who we are?