IIf there is one thing that has been reinforced to me time and time again during this season of change in my life, it’s this:
I am different.
Look, it’s not a shocking revelation to me or anything. I was the tallest girl in my class throughout elementary school (by a lot). I grew up in a trailer court. I wore a back brace from the time I was 11 until I was 15, when I had back surgery that made me TWO INCHES taller. (Thank heavens everyone else was catching up by then!)
I like Nascar.
Honestly, the list could go on and on. I learned early on how to adapt, react, and respond to make myself seem less different, less “other”. I’m sure there are friends reading this post and wondering how they never knew these few things and I can tell you: it’s hard work. But I became really, really good at it.
When I first started going to church in my late 20s, there was a Bible verse that hit home hard:
Do not conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Around that time, I started serving in my church’s youth group. And I realized very quickly that kids can spot a phony from a mile away. Slowly but surely, I started to come into myself and learned to be more willing to speak my mind and from my heart. I started to value authenticity above almost everything else in my relationships. And I realized that there were things I really, deeply, truly cared about in the world, things where I felt I could make a difference, no matter how small. And that there were a whole lot of things that the majority of other folks seemed to be angry about or get worked up about that didn’t make a lick of difference to me – especially those things I don’t have the power or, better stated, the inclination to take on. I wholeheartedly believe that we have the power to be the change we want to see in the world but that it takes intention and small steps, steps taken in love and compassion for others. Sometimes it’s a process of figuring out what those steps should or could be; sometimes it’s moving forward one step, to take two back. But it’s action and that is where change comes from.
This viewpoint colors my opinions. It fuels my debates. And it can really piss people off when they don’t get it, they feel attacked (rarely my intention) or they are simply looking for a sounding board for complaints without action. Frankly, it’s hard to live out “being different” a lot of the time. It pervades my relationships, my workplace, my interactions with new and old friends.
Funny thing about that, though: I’ve begun to realize that all the ways I am different from other people aren’t bad – they just are. They’ve made me who I am today and they are shaping who I’ll be tomorrow. And from my vantage point, that’s not so bad.