This “not fitting in” topic is MY domain…I’m an expert on this not fitting in stuff. Always have been. Picture this…as a kid I lived with my grandmother. My parents were divorced in a time when divorce wasn’t so common. I had unruly red hair. I had freckles and pale skin. My big front teeth stuck out a little too far (thank you braces…so lucky I got to wear headgear too). I heard the term “sway back” several times until I learned to stand up straight. I had thighs when all my friends didn’t. My face turned neon red whenever I exerted myself. I had pimples…I’d get some doozies. I blurted out things I thought were funny but ended up just being more awkward than funny. My name was Mikell in a year when the most popular names for girls were Lisa, Kimberly and Mary (according to the internet…somehow my name wasn’t on one of those lists and I never EVER was EVER able to buy a cool license plate for my Schwinn Sting-ray bicycle). I liked to write plays and songs and make my best friend participate in them with me in front of everyone for the school talent shows. I also got incredible amounts of pure joy from rearranging our living room furniture on a monthly basis. And I wonder why I was socially awkward. Shocking, I know!
While in high school, when the cool kids had super cute Toyota Celicas…I was given a baby blue Volkswagen Fastback (aka “The Blue Thumb”) that I had to double clutch to get into third gear and occasionally scrape mushrooms from the wall of the car near the gas pedal. Thank you water leak that allowed rain water to drip on my feet, forming a puddle under the gas pedal and watering that crop of fertile mushrooms. Oh, and that delightful mildew smell.
So, in a world of needing, wanting, dying to fit in why am I telling you that you shouldn’t? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because! Because I said so! LOL Just kidding. That’s not the reason. The real insider information about not fitting in is this…the things that make you not fit in are the things that make you radically special and uniquely cool. It’s true!!
Think about some of the coolest famous people who you admire. I bet if you google them you’ll find that they didn’t “fit in” in their younger years. For example, take actor Jason Segal. He’s hilariously funny and fantastically unique. Please check out this charming video where he chats with Ellen DeGeneres about his childhood. It’ll inspire you to be yourself!
I have spent (wasted) many years of my life trying to fit in with whomever I thought I admired. What happened is that it made me even more awkward because I wasn’t being my true self. I was acting. And I wasn’t a very good actor. I was really best at being myself.
Now, I know “not fitting in” can be incredibly hard and full of loneliness and heartache for some people. It’s not easy and I’m NOT going to preach to you that it is. But I have to tell you that once I began to completely accept my weirdness and to smile about it and to laugh about it, I began to live my life the way I was supposed to. I owned it. I advertised it! I still do. I tell people all the time that I’m a dork and I really truly am. But the difference now is that I like being a dork. I like other people who are dorks in their own right. I find them to be very real, very interesting and very accepting of all different kinds of people and ideas. It’s so liberating, so freeing, to be who you were born to be and to feel good about it.
Still, even though you embrace your weirdness, not everyone is going to like you. And really, truly, really, really truly who cares? Please thoughtfully think about that. You’ve heard it before…”don’t care!” But you can’t seem to not care…it seems impossible. Well, it’s not. It’s possible. Definitely possible. Here’s what you have to do…think about this…what if, just what if, someone doesn’t like you. Okay, so what does that mean? What does it mean to have someone not like you? It might hurt because you want to be accepted. But I think it means that they really weren’t “your people” in the first place. Now if you did something terribly horribly mean to them and they didn’t like you for that reason, well then, you need to say you’re sorry and be genuine about it. But let’s say you didn’t do anything more than just exist and someone didn’t like you for that? Again, those people are not YOUR people. Would you rather spend your days trying to make your “not your people” people like you or would you rather spend your days with your people? Your people are out there…do what you love to do and you will find them. And they will find you! And you will wonderfully not fit in with them, and they will not fit in with you, but it will be wonderful! Your kind of wonderful!
So the happy ending (although it’s hardly the end)..today, my hair is still red. I still have freckles and I love them. My bubble butt isn’t quite so bubbly anymore (dang). My teeth are straight. My wonderful parents are still divorced and my grandmother lives only in our hearts. My name is Mikell and I have to say thank you mom! Although I changed my name to Kelly in 1st grade, I now say my name with great pride. This name that made me cry as a kid now makes me smile and I think it rocks! All this not fitting stuff has made me who I am. All the ridicule and teasing I endured made my character strong. If I could give my kid-self some advice it would be this…
- Be yourself. Regardless of who you are or who you try to be there will definitely be people who do not like you. Do not let them break you. Do not break yourself.
- You will find other people who don’t fit in and they will be YOUR people.
- Someday people are going to spend a lot of money to have red hair.
- A large majority of the population will have unique names and you will LOVE yours.
- Those thighs of yours…well, they are strong and will take you on great adventures.
- You are a dork. You will always be a dork. And your friends will be dorks…they will be some of the greatest people you will ever have the honor of knowing.
It’s all going to be good so don’t waste a single minute trying to fit in. And oh, for all the Mikells of the world…you will NEVER EVER find your personalized license plate at any local drugs store, or any store for that matter. So make your own!