As a teenager, I struggled with being different. Am I alone there? When all you want is to fit in, yet every move seems to be the wrong one, revealing yet another dimension of your ‘weirdness’. Crying at night because you feel alone and isolated.
But guess what I’ve learned since leaving high school? It’s ok to be different. In fact, being different is actually pretty damn awesome. So now, when I’ve found myself in a small town and the feeling of not fitting in is vaguely reminiscent of high school, I’ve finally learnt to embrace my differences.
Being different is what makes us interesting. (In my current locality, if someone is described as a weirdo, I make a mental note to get to know them). It makes us, us! It may be wearing different clothing, having an unusual accent or a different set of values to those around you, but whatever that difference is – learn to embrace it.
There seems to exist a fairly standard life plan that each of us living in most developed countries are handed upon birth. For Australians, the rough plan goes something like this – attend school, find some kind of job / career, get married, have 1.7 kids, buy the 4×2 house in the ‘burbs, own 2 cars and at least 2 televisions. Step outside this rough plan and you become ‘different’ or ‘unusual’.
A friend recently introduced me to a quote; ‘define the box, then step outside it’. I love this quote, but don’t think it quite goes far enough. Perhaps; ‘define the box, learn exactly how to not fit inside it, run in the opposite direction and build an octagon / hexagon (insert shape of choice)’ would be more appropriate.
H.D Thoreau put it slightly more poetically; ‘let each man march to the beat of his own drum’. Thoreau was writing in the late 19th century, but of late, his words seem to have been forgotten in the rush to fit in.
So, here’s my challenge to you. Find the beat of your own drum and try not to care if it’s different to your friends, families or neighbours. Challenge the life plan and work out what works for you. It may be turning your back on a life driven by advertising and material consumption to focus on quality over quantity, quitting the legal profession to pick bananas or even packing up and joining a commune. Whatever tunes your drum is playing, learn to listen, dance occasionally and hell- why not live your life, your way?