Writing

Embracing Uniqueness

This morning, as I looked out my bedroom window, a wash of early sunlight coming through the trees, a thought struck me—a thought so compelling, I knew I had to write it all down. Belonging, or more accurately, the lack thereof. In my case, it is the perpetual struggle to do so.

Throughout my life, the scrutiny seemed endless. People often questioned everything about me, delving into aspects of my existence that were both personal and, frankly, none of their business. They questioned my sexuality, as if it were a puzzle for them to solve, not a facet of my identity. They doubted my intelligence, undermining my thoughts and contributions as though my worth could be measured by their arbitrary standards. Even my high school grades were a topic of discussion, as if a letter on a page could encapsulate my potential or the depth of my understanding. It felt as though I was under a microscope, with each part of me dissected and discussed, leaving me to wonder where I fit into societal norms.

I tried to think of a time when I truly fit in, a moment when I felt seamlessly part of something bigger than myself. The only experience that even came close was summer camp, yet even there, amidst the laughter and the shared secrets, I felt like an outsider. It was the summer of 1994, my last summer as a camper at Camp Chateaugay in Merrill, New York. That summer, we took a bicycle trip from the camp to Lake Placid, a journey marked by camaraderie and the kind of freedom only summer can bring.

While everyone else was out exploring the streets of Lake Placid, immersing themselves in the novelty of the town, I found myself drawn to a local bookstore on Main Street. There was something about the quiet between the shelves, the scent of old pages, and the solitude that felt more inviting than the bustling streets outside. It was there I bought a copy of “The Tao Of Pooh.” Clutching the book, I sought refuge in a public park, where I spent the afternoon reading. The book, with its simple yet profound wisdom, offered a perspective that resonated deeply with me. It was a moment of solace, a brief respite from the feeling of being perpetually out of place.

Reflecting on that summer day and the many days that followed, it’s clear to me now how much of our Western society is predicated on the concept of fitting in. This notion is especially prevalent in the modern educational system, where conformity is often rewarded, and uniqueness is, at best, tolerated. As an introvert, as someone who has always been a little different, navigating these societal expectations has been a constant challenge.

Amidst this whirlwind of judgment, and unsolicited opinions, one thing has remained the same throughout my life, and it revolves around the same three words: how I feel.

These words are my anchor in the chaos, a reminder that my experiences and emotions are valid, even when the world tries to tell me otherwise. Yet, these same three words are almost impossible to definitively define.

How I feel encompasses a spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and responses that are as fluid as they are complex. It’s a reflection of my inner world, a world that refuses to be neatly categorized or simplified into black and white. My feelings, like my identity, defy the rigid constraints society attempts to impose.

Navigating the maze of my emotions and the external pressures to conform has been a journey of self-discovery. Learning to honor how I feel has meant embracing the ambiguity and the contradictions that make me who I am. It’s understanding that my feelings are a reflection of my experiences, shaped by moments of joy, pain, acceptance, and rebellion. This realization has empowered me to stand firm in my truth, to value my perspective, and to seek out spaces where my feelings are acknowledged and respected.

In embracing how I feel, I’ve found a form of resistance against those who have sought to define me by their standards. It’s a declaration that I am more than their questions, more than their doubts. My feelings, complex, multifaceted, and always changing, are the lens through which I see the world, and they cannot be easily explained or dismissed. They are inherently mine, reminiscent of the journey I’ve been on, and the person I’ve become. I’ve learned that being true to how I feel is the most authentic form of self-expression, one that transcends the need to fit in or be understood by those who cannot fathom the depth of my soul.

My journey, marked by moments of solitude and the companionship of books, has taught me that fitting in isn’t the pinnacle of human experience I once thought it was. Instead, embracing my uniqueness, acknowledging my introverted nature, and finding solace in the things I love—like that afternoon spent reading in a park in Lake Placid—have been far more rewarding.

I’m reminded of the beauty in not fitting in, in being distinctly myself. Our differences, our quirks, and our unique perspectives are not just to be tolerated, but celebrated. They are what make us who we are. They are what make life rich, diverse, and infinitely interesting.

Colophon
The photographs accompanying this narrative capture moments from two distinct chapters of my life, one in the vibrant summer of 1994 and the other in the reflective year of 2023. The journey between these snapshots is not just of places but of personal evolution, reminiscent of the roads I’ve traveled and the places and experiences that have shaped me.

The initial photograph brings us back to a sunny day in 1994 at the Big House at Camp Chateaugay. In this picture, I am immersed in the role of a Wilderness camper, a young explorer at the cusp of adventure, surrounded by the natural beauty that would come to define much of my youth. This image is a window to a time when the world seemed boundless, and my spirit, unbridled by the complexities of life, was free to dream and discover.

Fast forward to 2023, the second image offers a contrast and a continuation of my journey, taken in Eastport, Maine, by my beloved wife, Amelia Desertsong. This photograph is more than a mere capture of a moment; it’s a reflection of growth, love, and partnership. It signifies a life lived with intention and shared with someone who profoundly understands the essence of my being. The backdrop of Eastport, with its serene waters and tranquil skies, serves as the perfect setting for this chapter of our lives.

Asides
Reflections Of A Solitary Soul | Thomas Slatin, On Love Versus A Soulful Connection | For Fear Of Being Judged | The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same | The Bittersweet Feelings Of Letting Go | We Simplify Our Journey To Make It Understandable | Celebrating Pride Month As An Intersex Lesbian | Riding The Dragon’s Wings | Memories Of The 1990’s | Time Is An Irrelevant Social Construct | I’ve Lived My Life As A Prelude To A Mystery

6 Comments

  • WritingfromtheheartwithBrian

    …it’s clear to me now how much of our Western society is predicated on the concept of fitting in.

    It really is amazing how much that gets ingrained into us at a young age. Kind of sad because there’s real beauty, courage, honor, and bravery in being true to ourselves!

    • Thomas Slatin

      Albert Einstein once eloquently stated, the person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever seen before.

      From time to time, a child is born into this world who stands out in some unique way. I, for one, entered this life as someone who was different in every conceivable aspect. Growing up, I was the little girl who was consistently underestimated and widely misunderstood, feeling suffocated by the constraints of the modern educational system. They called me the dark horse, which I later adopted as my nickname. Eventually, I learned to soar with grace and achieve success.

      Thank you for reading and leaving a lovely comment. 🙂

  • mydangblog

    I used to be so worried about fitting in and also always felt like an outsider. Now, especially that I’m older, I don’t care anymore. I just embrace “my weird”—it’s gotten me further than “normal” ever would have!

    • Thomas Slatin

      You might find this surprising, but Amelia and I have always stood out from the crowd. Speaking for myself, as I approach my 45th birthday, I find that the desire to conform matters less and less to me. Many of the things that once held immense importance to me, including fitting in, now seem trivial. Thank you for your comment, Suzanne! Here’s to embracing our uniqueness!

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