I don’t know about you, but I was a weird friendless kid.
It’s hard to remember the moment when I internalized the ‘weird’ part, although I have a feeling it was in preschool. I have a vague recollection of playing by myself, creating worlds of wonder, joy and beauty. Another kid came over. After I explained my imaginary scenario, characters and worldview, I was hit with what must have been interpreted as a simple fact. “You’re weird.”
It was the first of hundreds of times that I heard those words.
It hurt. Who wants to be weird? It doesn’t sound friendly or nice. It sounds… weird.
As I trudged through grade school and junior high I did everything I could not to be weird. I tried to fit in with the kids I thought were cool. As it turned out, they weren’t all that cool. But they were popular. I got that part confused.
At any rate, my attempts to un-weird myself hurt my heart, my soul and my sense of self. At some point I realized that it simply couldn’t be a great idea to try to be someone that I was not. Fortunately, in my early college years I began to embrace my weirdness. Hallelujah!
I chose to focus the weirdness into my creativity. My somewhat skewed brain automatically made all kinds of associations that no one else perceived as obvious. My ways of thinking moved across problems in unique ways. My ideas were different.
I verbified various words in my poetry. I boiled, froze and otherwise mangled my 35 mm film to create strange black and white photographic images. And I deconstructed song forms in my music.
As my skills in all of these mediums grew, the world responded. I was doing things that others could not do. Often it was things they couldn’t even conceive of.
I got published. Got hired. Won an international award for my music. Wow.
My weirdness shifted from a liability to an asset.
After decades of not being normal I suddenly realized that my creativity, my off kilter perspective, my unusual viewpoint, was something to be celebrated. So I took up the cause. I publicly declared that I was Weird. Capital W. Ya know, the good kind of weird. The kind that makes us all who we are when we stop trying to be like everyone else.
I sought out weird people. I taught weird students. Interviewed weird rock stars. And lo and behold, I made lots of weird friends. In fact, I was friendless no more.
This was all part of my celebration and my creative coming out. I found community and like mindedness. But the world would still occasionally lob those words at me when I least expected it. “You’re weird.”
Cool enough. I embraced it now. I’m proud of it. Mostly. The other day I heard those words from two people that I love. In the same day.
They were not being mean. They were not being nasty. They were simply stating fact. I did something that was not normal. It was not the standard way. It was kinda weird. Fair enough.
No big thing. Except I got really sad. It took me days of processing to understand what was going on.
In my mind, weird means different, unique, creative, exceptional. But in the minds of many, weird means ‘wrong.’
That’s a very different definition. And that’s the definition that I heard that day.
The words were not, “What you’re doing is weird.” They were, “You are weird.”
In that moment, it tapped into my core identity. I tripped right back to that day in pre-school when weird meant wrong.
I don’t want to be wrong. No one does.
As creative types, we are weird. That’s okay. In fact, it’s great. It’s a key factor in who we are.
We are not wrong at the core. Our weird is true, correct, righteous. It is to be celebrated, acknowledged and shared. Our weird is lovely, undeniable and valuable.
So when these words are (inevitably) directed at us, it’s a good time to remember the correct definition.
The people of the world are going to think about us however they choose to. That’s okay. We can’t change it anyway. But we have the choice to define that tricky little word. Time and time again.
Be conscious with your definition. Let your weird light shine.
What’s so weird about you?
Why do you consider it an asset and/ or liability?
How do you let your weird light shine?
BW vintage photo by Simpleinsomnia