On Being Different
I’ve always been a little different. Or a lot, that’s been the case too, from time to time. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a sense of fitting in or belonging, at least not in the most general sense. I’ve had amazing friends and wonderful groups of people I’ve been part of, but I’ve always felt different.
I have felt accepted, and that’s been lovely for the seasons it lasted. But while I’ve learned to be content, I’ve always been the one “thing that is not like the others.” This used to really, really bother me. But try as I might, I couldn’t fit in. This probably reached its peak in college when I would have panic attacks while getting ready to go hang out with my friends. It was ridiculous, and I was well aware of it. These people didn’t care what I wore or what I looked like. They were my friends and enjoyed my company, as I enjoyed theirs. They didn’t care that I was different. But I did.
Gradually I’ve come to understand the dynamic of being different, and even embrace it at times. There is freedom in acceptance and even more in the embracing of who you are. Largely, I’ve found my style and like it. It helps a little to live amongst people who appreciate diversity, but even among the diverse there’s judgement. At its simplest core, I’ve just had to change the angle I viewed “different” from.
This all started on one of my many long drives home 3 years ago. I had just gotten done having a conversation with an older man who I respected about my work/financial situation. The more he knew, the less he approved. He exhorted me in what truly was general wisdom. It was the “right” way of doing things, and I absolutely recognized that. But on the ride home I was praying about it and feeling horrible about myself for yet again not living up to people’s expectations of me.
As I prayed I felt God say, “You know you’re different right?” And in great exasperation I replied, “Yes! I know! I’m different!” But He countered, “Do you know that I made you that way?” And just a little bitterly I answered, “Yes, and I’ve been meaning to talk with you about that…” But before I could, he questioned, “What are some other words similar to different?” So I thought, “Strange?” “Ok, and…” “Peculiar.” “And…” “Unique.” “One more…” “Special.”
And there it hit home. Different is exactly that. Different. Out of the ordinary. Unique and special.
He went on, “If you are all of these things, what makes you think that your life is going to look like everyone else’s?” And it was a fair question. Not one I particularly liked, but it was fair.
I have a few things on the horizon. Projects I’m working on. Plans being formed. And they are different. They are not necessarily “wise”. Seemingly out of order even. They don’t fit in with the average way of doing things. But as we’ve discussed, I’m anything but average.
About 6 months ago I had three seperate people, two who didn’t know me at all and one who only knew me a little remind me of this fact. The first told me I was different, then made a play on my name and called me “abnormal.” About a week later, someone told me I was “peculiar – but in a good way.” Then about a week later when meeting me for the first time someone said, “you know, there’s something special about you.”
At first I shook it off, but after the third I remembered my conversation with God on this very topic those years ago. So I’m trying to keep this all in mind, remembering it when what I see doesn’t match what I think I should be seeing, when where I am is different than where I thought I’d be.
I can’t expect people to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. People suggesting that I “get a real job” are probably right… Or they would be right if I was normal. But I’m not. I’m me.
There may be a time when I need to do things in a more conventional way. There may be a season when my life is more predictable and looks average. That day may come… But it is not this day. And I don’t think that it is tomorrow either.