The human need, the human reflex is to be part of a community. I’m no different. But society expects that in order to be part of the community, one has to meet certain standards and norms. If one cannot meet those standards, one becomes an outsider. And I couldn’t met those standards. I wanted, I tried, how much I tried only I know. But I couldn’t.
Everyone likes to think they’re different, everyone likes to feel special, to feel unique. But the irony is that people really want to be treated like they’re absolutely special, but at the same time they’re trying to meet every possible standard and not stand out.
I knew I was different from my earliest years, but I didn’t feel special and unique. I felt weird. I felt like a misfit. I knew that very early, but it took me many years to understand that I don’t have to be like others. It took me many years to accept the fact that I’m different.
Every community and every group imposes behaviors whose imitation is a condition of inclusion. Those who reject these behaviors are, at best, excluded. At worst, they’re attacked. And people can be mean. People can hurt others.
We are constantly judging others; every face we see, every word we hear, every sentence we read, everything we experience, we subject to scrutiny. It’s more powerful than us and it takes a lot of energy to break this pattern and accept others as they are. It takes so much energy and it demands so much openness that many people will never do it. There are many reasons why people exclude others, but it’s enough to be different. I was. And I wasn’t.
My values were different, and my behavior didn’t match theirs. Every time I tried to join a community, it was a disaster. Especially for me. There was always something that didn’t fit, something that made me an outsider. I got tired of it. Sometimes it was a different set of values, sometimes I didn’t want to participate in some kind of activity. Other times it was a discussion I found disgusting, other times it was a belief or view I found absolutely unacceptable. Sometimes it was a chat application I didn’t want to install, sometimes it was a copyright issue. Sometimes it was very small, sometimes it was a core value. Many social behaviors and expectations were a mystery to me, others were just plain stupid. I got tired of it. They called me the mismatched. They tried to fix me. I got tired of it.
To be a part of something greater is the natural need of the human mind, and I was no different. Failure to fulfill this need causes suffering. So I suffered. The suffering caused me to obey and try to learn to be someone else. But it didn’t cause me to be accepted, it caused an internal conflict, and since every internal conflict causes suffering, I suffered.
That was my choice: to suffer because I’m rejected or to suffer because I’m conflicted.
Or so I thought at the time. It took me many years to understand that there is a third way. I can accept the fact that I’m different and learn to live as an outsider. It took me even more years to do so. I still am learning.
The community I was looking for, the group I wanted to be a part of, was in a different place. I changed schools, I changed jobs, I changed cities and social groups, I learned a different language (the one I’m writing here), and I found my community. I needed one thing, just one thing. I needed to mature and stop looking for any price. People who were as strange as I was, people who were willing to accept me for who I was, they were there, they were there all the time. But they weren’t waiting for me, I had to leave my cave and find them. But that’s a story for another day.
What I want to say here is that even though I found my community, I never stopped being an outsider. I just found a community of misfits. The solution to the conundrum I was trying so hard to find wasn’t to change myself and try to fit in with a group of people. It was to find the right group of people.
Until it happened, I had to accept that I was an outsider first and foremost. The long years that passed before I found people who think like me were spent trying to learn who I am. It’s impossible to find people like me when I don’t know what “me” is. That was the lesson I had to learn.
To be the one outside of society, to be the one who lives alone, among others, and yet alone, is a hard way. Choosing myself, standing by my values, is a hard way. Rejecting conformity and the comfort of being like others is a hard way. And I don’t want to say here that I am the hero, the last one to choose values over advantages. No, absolutely not. What I am saying is that I know there are people like me, I know I’m not alone. But I also know that many of them are suffering. They suffer because they feel alone, they suffer because they are rejected, they suffer because they want to love and they can’t, they want to be loved and they are not.
I am saying that I understand what it is like to be different because I am different. And even if there are millions of us, even if millions of us are different, everyone’s different in a unique way. There’s a great power in being different, and there’s a great power in being together. There’s no shame in being the outsider. It’s not a shame, but it’s a hard experience.
I know what it’s like to not fit in, to stand out, to be different. I know this because I am a misfit. And I’m proud of it.
To those who are different, to those who feel like outsiders, to those who can’t fit in, to those who don’t want to fit in.
You are not alone.