And the Loneliness of Being Different
Growing up, I think we’re all troubled with this yearning to belong and fit in- and for most of my life, I’ve never really felt like I’ve “fit in”. When most would go left, I’d go right– not for a sense of rebellion, but because that’s what I genuinely wanted to do. Though I drifted from the crowd I was never really alone. I bounced between different friend groups and generally got along with everyone but even still, never felt like I had a “core” group of friends. Although the thought of fitting in had always been in the back of my mind, I was learning to embrace the fact that I was just different.
As I got older and went down the journey of figuring what I wanted to do and be in life- I recognized that being different is really how I stood out amongst the rest of the crowd. I don’t mean that as a sort of narcissistic ego-boost, but more on the contrary, it was a dark depressing time in my life.
So how did this all start? My mother had moved to Canada and worked as a nanny. Eventually working her way up as a Nurse and getting enough money to bring over four of her thirteen siblings from the Philippines to create their own new lives here. Around this same time, a small but vibrant Filipino community was brewing, and so was a little romance. Within this growing community is where my Mom had met my Dad. Soon after meeting, they had gotten married while expecting the birth of my older brother, and a few years later, I was brought into this world. The Filipino community had continued to blossom and more families were starting to develop. And as all of us first-generation Canadian-born Filipinos got older, a little “crew” had formed. We’d always see each other at Filipino-community parties, and some of us had even gone to the same high school. Fast forward to our adult years, and our “crew” became more of a family. I mean, we really did all grow up together, and the closeness was real. Even though we’ve spent most of our lives together, I still felt very different from everyone. I wasn’t really into sports, cars, video games as most of the others were. I was interested in dance, design, creativity and other expressions of art.
Looking back now, it almost feels like the separation was inevitable. For me, what cut off the final common denominator was when I experienced my second attack of pancreatitis. This second bout was much more painful than the first, and it was then and there that I decided to quit drinking alcohol. After healing with weeks of bedrest and morphine pills, I was still invited out to lounge nights and outings, but now not being able to drink, it was different. I just didn’t like the environment, or who my friends turned into while intoxicated. And not that I was judging them for doing so, I just needed to keep my distance. So from there, instead of spending my nights playing video games or going out to drink like the rest, I would be working on my craft, getting back into training dance, and focusing on things that I liked to do. Again, there is no love lost with the people I grew up with– who I still consider family, but there is definitely distance.
Way too often, I would think about what it would be like if we had all still hung out; about how if I sacrificed what I liked to do just to maintain these friendships. It’s always the “what if’s” that really play with our minds. The obvious answer is to think that things would be different. But then, so would I. And for my mental health and for my life, I had to be selfish. I had to work on what’s best for me. And because I’ve taken the time to work on myself, I developed my own sense of personal style– not just with design, but also with dance, and the way I carry myself.
Call it conceited but I really do think that I’m one of a kind. And had I not taken those years to be a little bit selfish, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today. I say all of this to further stress the importance of the selfishness of self-love. It’s okay to focus on yourself, for YOU. Cliché to say but everything in life needs balance. As much as you give to others, make sure you invest that back into yourself.
Yes, this journey of self-love and being different will get lonely. But that’s how one stands out. Just as unique and beautiful snowflakes are; just as intricately detailed fingerprints are; we are all beautifully different- and embracing our differences is how we’ll stand out from the rest. Personally speaking, I feel like I’m too good at being alone. Not in the sense of being “lonely” but my closest circles are so small. And this sounds a lot harsher than I mean it, and very cliché, but if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. I promise I’m really not this cold! LOL! I just have to pay close attention to who I keep close to me. And the team I do have supporting me I hold near and dear to my heart and I’d do anything for them. The funny thing about the people I’m closest with, is that each of us are still very uniquely beautiful. And I think that is the best part– Being YOU-niquely bea-YOU-tiful.
I’m going to end this with a promise. I promise you that all of the tough love and hard work you direct towards yourself will be worth it. And you’ll have YOU to thank for that.
Love yourself, love others, love always.