I’ve tried a million times over to write on this subject. Grappling with how specific, or how deep, I wanted to go regarding the issue at hand. I’ve started a million drafts of this same post, and told myself not to worry about it, that I didn’t want my blog to be so serious, that I wanted to keep things fun and light. Yet somehow, here I am, pressed to finally publish this. I see too much hurt and pain and hate and judgement all around me to stay quiet.
I’ve never quite fit in, and for most of my life, I’ve always wanted to. I saw the popular kids just as they wanted to be seen, as cooler than me, better than me, something to aspire to be. It makes sense that I’d think this way; I grew up in a small southern town where rank and status are paramount. But even when I made it on the inside, I didn’t feel right; I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt nervous around the people I called my friends; I constantly felt like I needed to prove my worth to them. I’ve spent the vast majority of my almost 22 years tailoring my own personality, interests, and opinions to the group of elite around me for fear that I would not be accepted as myself. I’ve spent all that time hiding who I am, and building up walls, to make sure that no one can hurt me for being truly me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that weird. I’m just not stereotypically southern, which made me stand out growing up in the South and going to a private university in the South. I’m also very quirky. I like things that other people don’t like, and my personality is overwhelmingly unique; it’s not like I’m an alien.
In high school, I was lucky enough to find a small group of incredibly interesting, unique people who let me be a part of them, and I was allowed to be myself for a little while. When I went to college, I expected my little group of freethinking, accepting friends to get bigger. Instead I found myself in a sea of southern decorum that I was not accustomed to, so I changed; I gave up who I was, for a while, to assimilate into the culture of those around me, and for awhile I think maybe I was happy because I had made it; I was in the in crowd.
The thing about trying to be someone you’re not though, is that it’s exhausting and condemning, and eventually it’s too hard to keep pretending. When I quit hiding who I truly was, I realized I was completely lost, broken, and alone. Yes, I was lucky enough to have found a very few wonderful people who had accepted me for me all along, and who I consider the most amazing friends, but for the most part, those people in the in crowd, who I’d tried to impress and be a part of left me high and dry without so much as a glance back. What’s more, I’d spent all the time that you’re supposed to use to find yourself hiding from who I am for fear of rejection.
I’ve stopped fearing rejection somewhat, but once you start sharing who you truly are, when that’s not the norm, then you have to be prepared to be ostracized. Which is something I’ve become quite familiar with as well. My views don’t align with those of the people I live with or primarily deal with. While everybody else is waiting to be told when to jump, I’m in a corner dancing on my own. Although I’m having fun, you can only dance for so long without noticing that everyone else is backed into the opposite corner, turned off by your insistence to live without abandon. You can hear them saying that you’re not supposed to be dancing, that you need to be like everyone else, to stand and wait to jump, you hear it all, but even when you try to stop dancing, your foot keeps tapping along to the song.
I know what it feels like to feel different. I know what it’s like to feel constantly like you have to defend your every decision because society thinks you are wrong. I know how much it hurts to be an outcast; I know the pain from the bullying that comes with it, be it passive aggressive manipulation, physical, or mental abuse. I can’t wish that kind of pain on anyone. I can’t wish that any person would ever feel afraid to be themselves for fear of rejection. I can’t stand idly by and watch people be made to feel inferior. I can’t agree with the way our society dictates that being this way is okay, but being this way is not. It hurts to watch what our society has become and what it is capable of doing.
So I support any and all efforts to create a more equal and accepting environment of all people in our country. I support any and all efforts to eradicate bullying and eliminate prejudice within our society. A person should never be told that the person they are is wrong, that who they are is somehow invalid. It’s everyone’s most basic right as a human to be able to be themselves, and no one should feel shame for that.
What makes you an advocate for equality? What steps do you think are most important for us to take in order to ensure equality for all? Let me hear all your thoughts in the comments below.
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