I bought a book, once, based solely on the title. I didn’t open it up or read the back of the book. The name just described me so perfectly: Half-Broken Things.
This was back when I thought I was alone in feeling broken; I didn’t yet know all of us felt that way at least sometimes. At this point, MySpace was just dying out, and Facebook was the new, cool thing–grandmothers and middle school kids weren’t on it yet. All my friends from high school had cool new college friends and took awesome trips. Some were getting enviable jobs or having the cutest babies. I, too, had my share of pictures on Facebook, and I now assume other people thought similarly about me. Man, Lorelle must be so happy. She has it all.
So, I bought this book. It was in the bargain bin outside of Barnes & Noble; I was a poor college student, after all. The story was pretty good; I liked it because it made me so sad. It confirmed my naive mindset that I was one of the weirdo outliers of society, destined to disappear into the background of a world that belongs to the normal, happy people.
Back when I was a teacher (you know, 4 months ago…), whenever I heard one of my students calling one of their peers weird, I’d run over and high five the weirdo and congratulate them because, as I always say, if you’re not weird, you’re boring. Your weirdness, your lack of suave aloofness when it comes to specific interests, makes you different and interesting. Lacking one of these makes you, well, generic. It’s truly weird, then, that people are expected to hide their weirdness.
I do believe that the world is changing away from this idea, though. Gone are the days of Jack Kerouac, where anybody who differed from the 1950’s picture-perfect, Pleasantville personality was deemed an outsider. Thank God, too. I would never want to wear stupid dresses like that for longer than a costume party.
No, we’re now free to let our Freak Flags fly, and if you don’t have something interesting about you, you’re now the weird one. Sorry, Morag Joss, we’re all half-broken now. We do far less hiding behind our perfect little masks, (though middle schoolers are doomed to forever struggle with what “fitting in” requires) and far more open self-expression.
However, though I’m quick to celebrate others’ weirdness, it’s surprisingly hard to come to terms my own. Recently, I’ve discovered that people enjoy reading these trite epiphanies that I furiously scribble down, until now only privately in my journal. The fact that this thing I’ve been doing my whole life, this obsessive chronicling and analyzing of my life, is interesting to some people inspires me to reveal some of my other “freak flags,” if you will.
I was hanging out with a group of avid birdwatchers recently, and they were captivating. Being an expert in an outlying subject facilitates fascinating discourse. Eventually, the conversation being rather one-sided, one of them asked me, “What about you? What are you passionate about?”
This question–this magical question–invited me to reveal my weirdness to be celebrated, but I panicked. Passionate? I wouldn’t really call myself passionate, my mind started stuttering. Good at things? Maybe. Do I actually like doing those things though? Do they really make me happy? Is it worth it to say it out loud and be labeled “weird” in somebody else’s mind yet again? What if I say… I ended up staring at her and saying, “Um…” Smooth, Lorelle. Real cool.
I was on the verge of shutting down, of admitting to her and to myself that I was nothing more than a half-broken half-wit who had no passions and no personality, when my fiance said, “She knows everything about Shakespeare.”
Oh yeah, I thought, relieved. I can talk about the Bard. Granted, I know far from everything about good ol’ William, but I can intelligently discuss many of his plays, Elizabethan/Jacobean theater conventions, several authorship theories, and much of what’s known about Shakespeare’s life.
I’ve also lived on 3 continents and been held at gunpoint by a dude shouting at me in Bahasa Malaysia and spent ten years fainting constantly. I’m downright interesting!
However, I have 2 strikes against me in polite conversation. First, I’m shy. Many people don’t know this because I try so damn hard to pretend like I’m not, but if I’ve never met you before, you might as well be 10 feet tall with blood dripping from enormous fangs, swinging your massive, scaly tail. Second, I still have this deep-rooted mindset that everything I actually like is pretty lame. When I was a kid, the only cool thing to talk about was sports. Even though I am good at sports, I haven’t played any since high school, so that doesn’t exactly come to mind when somebody asks about my current life.
I guess I need to be my own teacher. I need to high-five myself whenever my brain calls itself weird. Maybe I am half-broken, but isn’t everybody else? If I can become engrossed with a conversation about the different hoots and screeches of the local owl populations, why can’t other people find my knowledge base equally enthralling?
My quest for self-actualization continues…
What about you? Leave me a comment and start a conversation about something you find interesting, you brilliantly broken beast, you.