Are You Unique Or Crazy?
"The problem with uniqueness is that practically no one can see it as anything but craziness." Robert Capon
I occasionally work from a Starbucks which is down the street from a middle school. I know when school is out because there's a massive influx of kids who swing through to get their blended drinks (no 13-year-old is ordering coffee!).
It's a fascinating group to watch.
The girls are taller and and more pulled together than the boys. The boys are shoving each other around and laughing loud enough to wake the dead. Everyone seems self-conscious about fitting in with the crowd.
The biggest oddity of the experience is how no one seems odd. They look and move like a herd.
I know this phenomenon is an age-appropriate survival technique and an expected rite of passage. I'm honestly not criticizing the behavior. Still, the skills we learn in our early teens can linger. I know thirty-/forty-/fifty-somethings who worry about fitting in.
Middle school habits die hard.
As a result, I spend a good bit of air-time talking to my daughter about being "weird." I want her to get comfortable with the word and the idea that blending in is overrated. As she races toward the land of Everyone Must Be The Same, we talk about people who think differently.
We discuss the famous strangers and the people we know who aren't afraid of being "unique." We review why it's a challenge to stand out. We imagine how it feels not to be in the "in" crowd.
We have these conversations so a pathway will form when the inevitable happens; when she has the opportunity to take "the road less traveled." I want her to recognize the path and willingly choose to be her own person.
I don't know about you, but it's a lesson I need to relearn as well.
If you want to think differently, you have to make peace with the fact that you'll be misunderstood.