Houses lined across a row
Patterns of pleasing colors
A mirror would be enough to show
No need to see each other
But one stood out amongst the rest
Its owner was given a notice
The group had thought that it was best
For no one to get all the focus
When that scheme failed, they laughed out loud
In unison when they walked by
Like moths to lights they did surround
Couldn’t match husband and wife
He cut his grass without looking up
And went on with his business
Then told the mass, “You should give love
To those who seem so different.”
He offered an axe to every one
Even the women and children
And said, “Relax and have some fun
Tear down your house and rebuild it!”
They took his advice and swung so free
Creating an image they’d chosen
All shapes and sizes across the street
Lived in by minds wide open
Normal is subjective. What you consider abnormal may be perfectly normal for someone else. What you find normal may be perplexing for someone else. The tendency to want to be perceived as normal doesn’t take into account the variety of perceptions you will face. Understanding this subjectivity can help break the trend of going the typical route.
Being in an environment where everyone is the same can be suffocating. If your goal is to continually learn, there is no better way than to be immersed in diversity. It is impossible to experience everything first hand (though that route should always be preferred), but learning to see the world through someone else’s eyes, someone who is different from you, will show you things you didn’t think were possible.
Regardless of your surrounding environment, living a template that has been laid out by someone else can also be suffocating. Your choices are limited. Your movements are restrained. Your freedom to explore what might really interest you is suppressed. You shouldn’t shy away from being different, you should embrace the opportunity to blaze your own trail. On the other hand, you also shouldn’t do something different just for the sake of being different. It needs to mean something to you, even if there will be no recognition for it. This balance of finding your unique path without worrying about how others interpret it is important.
Continuing down this notion of recognition, it is natural to want to be accepted, to want to fit in. On the surface, there is reward in being welcomed into a group of like minded individuals, but it should not be an ultimate goal. A much more profound instance of acceptance occurs when you are so true to yourself, so unequivocally sure of who you are, that others gravitate towards you. Not because you have done something for them, not because you are similar to them, but because you’ve exposed them to something they haven’t seen before. No two people are exactly alike, and their unique characteristics and dimensions should not be tolerated, they should be celebrated.
It is natural to be scared of something different. It is easy to look at something from afar and choose to dismiss it because it is of a different language, a different accent, a different color, a different location, an entirely different culture. It is also not unreasonable to think that it may be difficult to fully understand the complexities of that culture, to a point where even if you wanted to be immersed in it and be accepted, it would be impossible. What is easy to understand, however, what is easy to appreciate, is what the culture means to those who practice it. For those who have an aversion to cultures foreign to them, take the first step of respecting its meaning. For those who anxiously want firsthand experience of something new, take a step back and begin by respecting its meaning.
- Do you go to great lengths to look different? If nobody was able to see you, would you still go through the trouble? What in particular about your appearance means something to you, regardless of how you are perceived?
- Do you geek out on anything? Do you love something so much that you get more and more excited as you delve into every detail of it? Do you avoid expressing this feeling openly for fear of not being looked at as normal, or because the subject itself isn’t considered normal?
- Are you immediately critical of anything new? Is your attachment to what you are used to preventing you from seeing the worth of what has come along? Are you afraid your own way of thinking will become obsolete?