Years ago in the mid-nineties when my niece was around seven years old, we passed a book store during one of our special one-on-one days. I loved hanging out with Sydney (still do) – especially since my sister and I couldn’t be more different.
My older sister Laurie is the left brain, practical, problem-solving thinker. Me? I marinate in my right-brain-ness; satiating on the creative, fanatical, finger-painted wonder that is my messy life. You want neat, tidy, brilliant, finance-managing and scary-smart logic? Laurie is your gal (I’m in awe of her brain, actually). I’ll be in the music aisle dancing to Earth Wind and Fire, swinging my unkept auburn locks while my overly-priced-candle burns away – wondering where all my money went.
When it comes to the thinkers and feelers of the world, no one is any better or worse than the other – we’re all just wired differently. It’s actually pretty great, once we get past our “my way or the highway” vibe.
Two polar opposite sisters in a dysfunctional family always makes for some interesting dinner table talks; and proved surprisingly educational when it was just my sister’s daughter and me on this particular day.
“Eeew, she’s so weird.” Sydney was referring to a magazine cover photo of Gwen Stefani in the window, in all her blue-haired, bedazzle-faced glory.
Tossing me a look as if my own head of hair was blue, she continued.
“You think it’s cool?”
“I do!” By the look on Syd’s face I knew my words needed back-up. “She dances to the beat of her own drum. She blazes her own trail, not caring what anyone thinks of her style. She’s expressing her creative side. So cool.”
“Yea, but it’s weird.”
“But weird is good.”
I could tell she was trying to wrap her young head around my words, and I appreciated the fact that she was trying to expand her mind. But for a kid, the possibility that being different is actually cool is way too foreign.
When we’re young, all we want to do is fit in. If you were different, you were weird. And weird is another word for YOU’RE NOT ONE OF US, which translates to, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, leaving our wounded hearts to believe I’M NOT LOVABLE. Dangerous territory and not one I was capable of tackling within the space of light-hearted hang time during a stroll through the mall.
“Okay…” Her inflection sang to the tune of “if you say so, Crazy Auntie!”
We both smiled and continued on to the movie theater.
It’s been over a decade and I cannot tell you the name of the movie we saw that day, but for some reason our Stefani exchange stays with me. Is it because my Dalai Lama-Obi Wan Kenobi teachings were so brilliant that it’s impossible to forget such wisdom? Probably.
But more than likely, my explaining to a young girl on the verge of her teen years that it’s ok to be weird helped shine light on my own insecurities.
As a young woman in her 20s with scars on her face, PTSD from sexual abuse, who chose the stripper pole over a college campus, I needed all the self-esteem boosters I could get.
So thank you Sydney (and Gwen). More than you’ll ever know – and just by explaining how great it is to be unique – you helped me embrace my own weird – and reminded me just how cool it really is.