Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fitting In and Standing Out

A snippet from the sitcom Modern Family

Manny, a middle-schooler, feels bad that he gets picked on by his peers for being "weird" and "different"
Mitch, a smart gay man, tells him,
"Yeah, they [kids in school] would, um… they'd call me weird. I was weird… fun weird. But I… this is the funny thing about growing up. For years and years, everybody's desperately afraid to be different, you know, in any way. And then, suddenly, almost overnight, everybody wants to be different. And that is where we win."

I don't know if people like us ever really "win".

However, this is a tussle that is more than just a phase that people go through. It is a constant, continuous struggle to get the balance just right - to fit in just enough, while still standing out just at the right distance away from the crowd. Not blending in, but not ostracized either.

No matter how many years have elapsed since those "growing up" years, no matter how well you (think) you know yourself, the desire to fit-in (to just the right degree) lingers. Despite your inner monologues, rational chit-chats that invoke the power of your individual choice, the expression of your true self, the impossibility of having been anybody else or done things in any other way, a part of you withers for standing out - a little too far out. You tell yourself that you are tired of always being different, of always being the "weird" complicated one, and once in a while, all you want to do is walk a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated, natural path to get to a few conventional things that add meaning and validation to your life; like everyone else that did and continues to do so, seemingly effortlessly. 

Even as I write this out, in my characteristic way of venting to a computer screen rather than talking to someone, I wonder why I am being so...
Why I need to think so when most people don't...
Why I struggle to just keep moving and pushing through, brushing off things without the need to analyze and ask the nagging "why" questions...
Yes, the last question is a classic irony... Why do I ask "why"... 

Because I am, and will always be weird, complicated, sensitive, and different. Always trying to catch up with the course of "normality", I end up on convoluted detours that give me joy on one level and a dull ache of inexplicable yearning on another. 


SecondSight said...

And the reasons you stand out are the same ones that explain why you fit so perfectly and completely in other places, where "normal" wouldn't stand a chance.

To me, the "winning" came from finding and holding on to more unique, memorable people as I grew up :)

Neeraja said...

Thanks SecondSight.

Yes, the handful of people I've found are precious indeed.

Anonymous said...

I read this somewhere, don't remember where, but someone once said " There are no norms. Everyone is an exception to a rule that does not exist".

The key is to turn the "why's" into "why nots" :)

Neeraja said...

Wish the idealism of the quote matches reality.

Thanks for the comment.