A few years ago I took a photography class. I decided to do a photo shoot for a project for the class. Because it was Halloween, I asked participants to come, dress up in spooky attire, and allow me to take photographs of them. The afternoon and evening turned out to be rainy and so I set up in my basement a backdrop. The lighting I had available was not necessarily what I would have preferred. Many of the photographs were quite stunning and made striking by the harsh lighting provided by several Ott lights. I would like to do another photo shoot with a super heroes theme!
I have been working on a series of biographies for the last couple weeks and researching various people including a celebrity chef, an author, a teenager who bravely sailed around the world, an internet entrepreneur, a CEO of a big US company, and a pretty boy actor. Of these people I would say that four out of six of them went through some significant hardship, were publicly criticized, and had a path that was a divergence from what would be considered the norm. In other words they were “weird”. Maybe they had a learning disability, failed an oral exam and had agoraphobia, were lost and took a chance on a life path, or were the geeky kid in the neighborhood. It could be anything that makes them different from the cookie cutter image of normality that rides like an archetype within modern minds.
I get assignments to do these types of biographies every few months and at this point have researched and written about quite a number of successful and celebrated people. And this idea that they were “weird” or diverged from a “normal” life at some point is quite often a feature of their lives. And their lives continue to be divergent because of their success. They stand out. I don’t like the term weird. It has negative connotations and is nothing more than an opinion. To accept the designation of weird is like allowing a thought knife to jab into one’s psyche. It serves no purpose but to wound. Better to acknowledge as magnificent the differences and see them for what wonderful and positive qualities that they are. It is a choice what one chooses to accept into themselves.
We have this constant push and pull within the human race of striving to be accepted and validated and conversely to be individuated and unique. We want to be ourselves and yet we want to be pulled into the fold of being designated as normal. Everyone wants to be popular and have their peers respect and admire them. Success can do that. But I would argue after researching so many successful people that those people who are outside of the narrow circle considered “normal” are the ones who truly shine. They are also the folks who are our problem solvers, our innovators, our explorers, and the ones who create the future. They are brave in ways that those who have the comfort of normality do not ever have to be. All the divergent points that are represented by humanity are necessary and valuable to the whole of our species. Don’t think of this as a bell curve. Think of it as a bullseye and the scattershot outside of the center is where possibility lies because we never know who outside the center will be the one to bring new thoughts and innovation to the human race or will inspire.
To those who would sneer at another or give that look that so eloquently dismisses a fellow human being, I would smile and remind that without the ones who are courageous enough to be different we would still be carrying clubs and living in caves.
To those magnificent individuals who are unique and honor their uniqueness, I would remind them that the road is hard, they will always be different, and that different can be wonderful.