About a month ago, I posted a status on Facebook saying,
“It takes courage and strength to be different; I guess that makes me both a strong and courageous person.”
The truth is, I have always felt different from people my age – often I feel like an outsider in most social circles where I am expected to “fit-in.” A good example of this traces back only a few weeks ago when I went to see the movie The Amazing Spiderman 2.
Sitting in the movie theatre with three people I know from my architecture classes (and another person who was a sister of one of the three), I couldn’t hold back my repulsion at the “high-schoolish” nature of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy most action movies and leap at the chance to see any hero from Marvel personified on the big screen, but The Amazing Spiderman 2 just did not do it for me. The petty romance scenes, the mediocre one-liners delivered by a slightly better than average Andrew Garfield – it just wasn’t for me.
On the other hand, the people I went to see the movie with were sucked in at every scene. From the flashes of lightning at the hands of an angry and misunderstood ‘Electro,’ to the sappy “Baby, I’m leaving you for London,” scenes – these guys were hooked! I remember thinking to myself, “What about this movie is supposed to appeal to my generation?” And now as I write, I still don’t know the answer.
My “difference” really struck me when, during one of the pinnacle scenes of the movie as Gwen reluctantly tells Peter she’s decided to go to Oxford, I turned to my right and caught a glimpse of my friend’s sister at the point of tears. Immediately I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Is she really crying?” News to me, my friend’s sister was emotionally moved by the teenage angst and overdone, “Oh my God how will I ever live my life without you because there is a huge plot twist getting in the way of our love,” appeal. Sitting there next to her I felt like a complete jerk – soon after came the slightest feeling of isolation.
“Am I supposed to be emotionally moved by this scene too? *Aleece is only a few years younger than me… Maybe I should be crying too.”
Ironically, I found myself letting out something closer to a chuckle at the cheeky romance of the scene – no tears from my end. And now that I think about it, I believe I was the only one laughing at that part of the movie in the theatre. I couldn’t help myself – the romance was too cliche!
When the movie finally ended, I found myself in an old, familiar place. Walking out of the theatre I asked the people I was with what they thought of the movie, testing them to see whether or not these were people I could get into deep, intellectual dialogue with. Their responses ranged from the usual, “Oh, it was alright,” to “Yea, I thought the action was good,” and “Ah! I loved everything about it.” You can imagine my disappointment. Not only was I disappointed with the fact that, judging from their responses, an intellectual dialogue was out of the question, but I was more upset because I felt out of place. What I wanted to say to my friends was, “Do you guys think critically about anything?” And, not that I thought the people I was with were complete idiots – they are actually smart people individually. It was the fact that they are intelligent people capable of saying much more than, “The mediocre content of The Amazing Spiderman 2 sparked my 20 year-old interests and I cannot be stimulated past what is supposed to appeal to me.”
My frustration with my friends that day represents an isolated situation that embodies my feelings toward most of the people in my generation. My outsider-ness is fueled by a number of experiences, most of them hurtful, with a generation that is all too caught up in the here-and-now and “YOLO” – a license to do anything stupid and harmful to yourself because You Only Live Once. Time after time, I have been that girl at a party with shorts too short, drinking down my insecurities, trying to convince myself that YOLO and the here-and-now moments were the only way to get through the struggles of youth. I have been that girl dragged to a party, guzzling down shot after shot with my friends in an attempt to forget the things that pain me because I thought, “This is what people my age do.”
On the flip-side, I have also been the person that even while drunk, stumbling and trying to move my hips to reggaeton, I knew my life was worth more than the “hype.” That drinking it up, partying it up, comparing hang-over stories with friends – that was not the person I wanted to be. And, the moment that I decided I did not want to merely “get-by” in life, sidelining my problems, living for the next party or the next drink I could get my hands on, the isolation I felt from my peers was stifling. I went from being the party girl, “down for whatever”, to being the “prude” – the person people asked, “Wait, why don’t you drink again?”
For a while during my junior year of college, I felt like I would never be able to escape my loneliness. People that I thought were my friends began to turn on me, brushing me off with an attitude of, “If you’re not drinking with us, taking shots at 2pm on a Tuesday with us, then you’re not a part of us at all.” As soon as I started to see through the “hype” and gained enough courage to essentially be my own person, the isolation came from every angle. My roommates thought I was judging them because I had decided to live differently, they drank in my face, and hardly included me in any of their plans. After a while, I started to realize that my basic interactions with people were colored by my feelings of hurt and loneliness. My longing to be accepted and “part of something” had been squashed.
Fortunately, there is an element of irony in loneliness: it has the potential to breed strength. Learning how to be my own person, okay with only having one drink at a party or not even going to a party at all, has helped me realize that my desire to think critically about my life does not make me prudish, but it fuels my sense of identity as a young adult. And believe me, I would be remiss if I did not mention the few genuine friends that have partnered with me through my changes as a young adult. In the end, I have learned that it indeed takes courage and strength to be “different.” And as cliche as this may sound, the world would not be the way it is today if it were not for the different people who were unafraid to live against the “hype.” That is the community I want to be part of – the community of outsiders willing to be a little lonely for a while, not only for integrity’s sake, but for the sake of helping a generation get it’s head out of the clouds and grounded in the things that will last.
As I close, I want to challenge you as a reader to ask yourself which community you are part of? Are you willing to encourage the outsiders you see in your own sphere of friends? Are you willing to take a step into outsiderness? The process of becoming your own person is never easy, but the process, the journey itself, is indeed worth it.