Recently, I have found myself becoming much more aware of how different I feel from a lot of others. It leaves me wondering: what truly IS “normal”? When I think about it, I end up becoming very black-and-white with how that looks. Or, as my brother terms it, “basic.”

When I compare my interests to my roommate’s, this is the word I immediately think of. There is absolutely wrong with enjoying what you do, it’s simply seeing how your own interests line up with others. They often bring up stereotypical images in my mind, something I don’t care for, but in this situation, it’s inevitable.

For example, when I see and hear what kinds of shows my roommate watches, it’s often something like Dance Moms or the Vampire Diaries. When she plays music, it’s a lot of current top 40 pop that at this point, I don’t recognize anymore. I’ve never seen her pick up a book.

This is when my mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that something must be wrong with me if I cannot relate to her. That I have no clue what to bring up in a small-talk conversation. It feels like a failure on my part that I might somehow be inadequate, that I’m not doing enough to be a friendly, genuine person. When I’m not completely at ease in a situation, I get very tense and anxious, and this is no exception.

Now I see how people will get irritated with such observations, I can completely understand. I am very open minded. I don’t judge others on what they love because there’s obviously a reason that you find something so great. Good for you. I care more about how I might fit into a mosaic that I’m forcefully trying to be a part of. As I mentioned last week, being in a new environment like this brings back similar emotions to freshman year, bobbing around hoping to find a place. Except now it’s doing so in less than half the time.

In this time of self-discovery, I have indeed discovered a lot, about myself and what answer might be to this question. There is not one type of “basic” person or personality. We all have different ideas about that term and probably exhibit some behaviors ourselves deemed “basic.” But there still exists a metaphorical standard deviation chart of how people might line up, a majority of which fall somewhere in the middle and can probably find ease within relating to others.

Then there are those that are outliers with perhaps a few more quirks than the average joe. These are the people that get scolded by cafeteria workers for taking more than one banana and bring Tupperware to the dining hall. Or people who often talk to themselves and shriek out loud when watching cute animal videos at all times of the day. (If you were wondering, yes, this describes me.) When I mention some key things I enjoy, I rarely come across others who share my passions. While this makes it much harder for me to immerse into a social setting, I see it as a benefit to build stronger, more special bonds. And the things I do love, I have very strong emotions tied to them.

Realize that if you feel like an outsider, that’s okay. Take an opportunity to really learn about yourself and treasure that time. There is no greater feeling than finding security just within yourself, not having to rely on others. Spend time doing what you love, even if others aren’t joining in. There is beauty in quirkiness, in strangeness.

So many of our formative years are spent trying to fit into the crowd, I feel like I could have used more time earlier to gain the deep understanding I now have. In this situation, I again feel that urge, but I’d like to think I have some new wisdom and insight to prioritize myself. That’s when, even in settings where I feel like the oddball out, it’s easier for me to come out of my shell and really like that “freak flag” fly. That’s also when I attract others like me, which can be the greatest treasure of all.

No matter what you enjoy, how “mainstream” you feel (is that an appropriate term? See, I don’t even know how people talk these days), as cliche as it sounds, just be yourself, whether you’re super hip and cool or a grandma trapped in a twenty-year-old body (Again, referring to myself), you are a beautiful, unique individual. Don’t let yourself get lost in a search for inclusion or approval. Listen to your gut and your soul. They will lead you in the right direction.

And remember: identity is not stagnant. This isn’t a lesson about a magical epiphany and everything is dandy. Always be open to learning more about who you are. You aren’t the same person you were yesterday, and you might not be the same person tomorrow, and that’s okay. Identity is not a basic, normal journey. You are not just a single word. You are so much more.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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