Embracing my Strange

Dedicated to those strange and magical people I’ve known, the Muses in hiding.

In a discussion with a dear friend, I realized recently I’m growing in a direction that I absolutely cherish. I’m growing into the person I’ve always wanted to be. Kindness is my default. I love caring for and making other people feel special. This isn’t me humble-bragging or bragging at all, but when my sense of identity was restricted for so many years, I marvel at the self I have built.

Being weird used to be the thing that ostracized me and made me a pariah among my peers. They teased me for my vocabulary, personality, and look. Now, I think of those adversities and laugh. I finally have gotten to a point in my life where I not only accept myself but appreciate myself – quirks and all.

When I was eighteen or nineteen, I got a tattoo to remind myself that my imperfections are what make me wonderful. That there is beauty in the strangeness. But it was easy to appreciate the quirks when I wasn’t living in the very place that held me down. Moving back home in 2008 and having experienced many relationships and friendships, I began to conceal parts of myself. For years after that, I shrank myself to fit a role. Everyone who knew me only saw fragments of me – the fragments I was comfortable showing them. I became a chameleon, slipping into roles that I felt would make me accepted.

original art & quote isabelle palerma

I thought I had to be someone else to be loved. I felt that I was multi-faceted, but now, I see that I was simply shape-shifting to be whomever others needed from me. I dressed the part and yet, at the end of the day, I was so exhausted. Tired of acting. Tired of changing my script based on who I interacted with.

In the neurodivergent community, this is known as masking. I’m not sure if I was masking or just uncomfortable in my own skin after being made to feel ashamed for who I am. But in 2019, something changed.

I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree, and somehow, through my education and meeting new people who encouraged me to unveil my true self, I began to unwrap my many false layers. I began to experiment with identity in a new way – instead of piling on layers to protect myself, I began stripping layers of myself until my vulnerable and true self remained. A friend reassured me that people would “worship [my] strange”. That phrase resonated through me and I began to embrace this part of myself that I long abandoned.

I reached out to people and showed them genuine, unfiltered kindness. I danced to the music at the fast food restaurant, I walked on landscape walls as though they were a tight rope, I began to radiate joy. I honestly stopped caring what others thought of me. These experiences transformed me. Friends began to say how I was glowing. That I had become a new person.

via PostSecret

I might be strange and sometimes, feel like an alien on a foreign planet, but I finally discovered I would rather be my own version of strange than a replica of those who surrounded me. I want to be the individual I am – not blend in. That being said, I don’t want to be eccentric simply for weirdness sake, but I just want to embrace my genuine, authentic self.

And I am embracing her.

I hope if you are out there, you read this and know that yes, I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.

And now that you have my scent, you can always find me again.

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