spark: rebels and misfits

Cynthia said this and I thought:

It’s never one thing that makes you the misfit.

It could be what’s on the outside — but I was a misfit no matter what I wore. My face could’ve been made to fit just fine: contacts, hair dyed back to its natural then-mousy brown, paying attention to fashion.

(I walked into Hollister the other day, dark wood, dim light, and found myself at home in terms of clothing choice. What if I’d done that in 2002?)

Maybe it’s who you hang with? I moved here and I didn’t look like the rich kids. It’s only from twenty years in the future that I can look back and appreciate that the rich kids openly disliked me. Later they would be the ones who were well-adjusted enough to be moderate in all things. That’s changed since I was young, of course; now that we’re the generation raising children (or not, in my case), much more individual expression is encouraged, and you can’t necessarily pick out which one you pass in the mall is popular, which is not, which is a geek, which is a freak, which is on what team. Social boundaries have blurred.

If I were fifteen or sixteen today, listening to different music, watching what I liked, as long as I didn’t take it to an extreme, I think these things would be quirks rather than social death. So would beliefs — and this was already beginning to be true when I was a teenager, actually. Thinking back, the evangelicals weren’t actually popular, and the popular kids weren’t evangelical. Maybe they were churchgoers who did their own quiet thing on the weekends or after school. They weren’t hardcore, though. None of them were hardcore anything, except perhaps goal-oriented, and that was to be applauded. If you knew where you were going and what you were about, it was generally well-received. Nihilists not welcome.

Imperfection was just fine.

If I were the age I appear to be, the fact that I’m honest, forthright, willing to work hard at school but not to the exclusion of all else, willing to make friends with people who aren’t just like me, a sense of comfort in my own skin — this would not make me super-popular, maybe, but I wouldn’t be an outcast, either.

Stupid to look down on kids who seem to have it all, I think. Stupid to have done so when I was a kid, unmedicated, rootless. If I’d made friends a little earlier…? If I’d asked my mother to help me conform visually so the differences on the outside wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious, would I have had friends to catch me when I fell? Or would I still have been the omega child turned loner?

I can’t undo the past. Mine then to be grateful I survived and made myself into someone I do respect and love — with a lot of help along the way.


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