I absolutely hate this Reverb 10 prompt because it reminds me too much of the feel-goodey self-help books/seminars/talk shows. I can’t see what it possibly has to do with writing. And that said, I will still do it because I’m stubborn, because I’m annoyed and according to my writing circle, any strong emotion is fodder for a writer. So here then is a prompt that sparks off the ‘irritable’ energy in me.
December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)
What makes me different? Nothing at all. I am not one of those people who strives to be different. I am the person who manages to say or do something that makes people around uncomfortable. For the Harry Potter fans, I am the Luna Lovegood of my world (in the ‘had a curious habit of saying things like that which made everyone uncomfortable’ way).
When I was a kid, I was called weird. Children don’t take too well to a kid who questions the method of selecting the ‘den’ in a game (it’s biased too badly in favour of the bigger, stronger kids). The kids I grew up with did not like change and hated my frequent suggestions to reverse game rules, mix-and-mash games (football on bicycles, hide-and-seek where everyone looks for one person and hides with them when they find them) and other variations. ‘Weird’ was a well-earned tag, I suppose.
Then I grew up a little more and stepped into adolescence. But I hadn’t developed the badass attitude to be called delinquent, misbehaved or troublesome. Instead I became ‘inexplicable’. I mean, who gives away their lunch in return for being left in peace to stare out of a window? Who makes a beeline for the skeleton in the biology lab to go shake hands with it? Who answers a Foundation Course question of ‘What is your identity?’ with ‘I am unique’? (Yes I did that. Everyone else had used up the ‘I’m Ms.so-and-so’, ‘I am the class topper’ answers). Who cuts physics class to sneak into psychology lectures? Who gets to college early to watch a sunrise? Inexplicable, indeed.
I dropped a year in college because I couldn’t bear physics. Then I made life miserable for the head of my math department by questioning every thing she said. I called my placement co-ordinator, a pimp, because she insisted on sending me to a dubious company (whereby she retaliated by banning me from college placements). I sat unemployed for six months because I didn’t think the jobs that were on offer were worthy. And then, I quit the prestigious job that I did get, a year later with nothing else on hand. Mysteriously three months later, I landed another (and even more prestigious) job. Three years later, I made a career move that surprised everyone in the company who heard of it and every mentor I’d ever had (one of them said I’d plain lost my brains). I quit that a year later to write. Without a publisher, without a job on hand and right in the middle of recession. Brainless? That’s me.
I’ve never been prouder than when following my own quirky, mad, unpredictable choices. They’ve always worked for me. I can’t always explain how and why but many of those times, I just know that something is right for me, even if the world seems to think otherwise.
And I’ve never been happier than when I’m able to live as weirdly, as inexplicably and as brainlessly as I want to. That happiness comes from freedom but also the peace of mind that no one has ever been burdened by my choices. I’ve always borne the consequences of my decisions and really, really, not a single one of them has been bad. The only difficult things I’ve had to face have been the results of following what people around me felt was right (uninspiring education, unsuitable workplace, unlovable love interest).
I can’t tell if it that any of this makes other people happy. But here’s something – Because my own life is so offbeat, my choices so inexplicable and my self so ‘weird’, I have a near irrational hope in other people’s dreams. I’ve been told by at least a few people that my belief in their abilities gave them the courage to pursue what they really wanted. That’s an aspect of beauty I would be proud to stand for.
Nobody really wants to be born ‘different’. It’s so much easier, better to be born smart or attractive or popular or steady. I spent long enough ruing the fact that I couldn’t be the girl my family wished I would be, the ‘right’ kind of girl for the men I loved, the ‘perfect’ employee that the perfect workplace demanded. Now, I think I’ve just reconciled myself to the fact that I never was any of those things and never will be so I may as well enjoy being myself. After all, nobody else is.