I wish I could go back in time and give 13-year-old me a wedgie. I don't condone bullying other people, but I think self correction is closer to fair game. Especially when adolescent Tyler used to borderline bully other kids. My role was rarely, if ever, the ringleader. I didn't do that (or I've blocked out the memories, I'm not sure). But I didn't stand up for the kid with the target. And that's just as bad. The sidelines are just as guilty as the main stage.
This won't make everything better, but I hope it's a step forward and maybe it'll change the way you go about your day.
The world is full of expectations. "Know your lane. Arrive at this time. Do it this way or not at all. You can't wear that. Grow up. Act normal. That's embarrassing." It goes on and on and on. Social norms and taboos swim in and out of daily life like a cold.
I'm almost 28 now, but the high school hallways echo into adulthood. Adults with children still pick on adults like children. And I think it comes from a place of Premature Weirdness Deprivation (PWD). The older I get, the more I realize that weird people are the coolest around. And the longer they've been weird, the cooler they are, honestly.
Think about it: nerds built the phone you'll stand in line for hours to buy. And guess who wrote that movie you just saw. Oh yeah, that dude who started an automobile company or that insanely profitable company? Also weirdos. Trends came and went and baited you along. They stayed weird until everyone else came around.
Marketers and entrepreneurs use the term "niche" for finding a place, calling or craft that is entirely your own. As in "no one else is doing it, so here's your unique space to thrive". Truly, if you look at all of the motivational speakers, business coaches and life designers trying to spark greatness in others, they're inviting the vanilla masses to reinvestigate their quirks. They're helping Man Child Bob remember what felt more like fun and less like work. They're helping Too Cool Sally find that spark that made her proud until someone on the jungle gym shut it down.
Tom Who Plays the Flute may get an electric guitar this Christmas and form our generations' Led Zeppelin. That guy who makes his own clothes may design yours some day. That girl who sits in the back with ear buds and colors in her sketchpad may illustrate the Disney movie that puts your toddler to sleep. The dork who reads science books for fun will help find a cure for your grandpa.
The world has a weird way of working like that.
Weirdness is a child-like curiosity that blossoms into the most amazing adventures. It's the root of lifelong passions and a surefire way to build camaraderie and culture with like-minded people. Why in the world are we so quick to toss it out?
On the commonly accepted social scale, my obsession with BMX bikes is probably about as weird as I get these days. They're way too small for a lanky dude like me, the average age at the skatepark is about 15, and police officers have less grace for a father trespassing on a spot than a kid half my age. But I've kept up with it because it brings me immeasurable joy, has connected me with the guys who stood up at my wedding, and it makes me feel alive. There's still a hint of Indiana Jones boyhood in me, I used to rock serious pooka shells (see image up top), and I daydream about starting a bike-friendly coffee shop/brewery - with a public bouldering wall - that serves breakfast burritos all day and doubles as a music/art venue at night. Well, that and we named our dog, Samwise, out of reverence for Middle Earth folklore and my goal of one day visiting Rivendell.
No matter the dosage, weirdness absolutely shapes my daily walk and longterm dreams.
My point is that weird is an outward judgement. It's forced upon you. It's the distortion of something you love based on something somebody else hates. And that's just lame.
If I made you feel weird in the past, I'm sorry. If I took shots at your niche out of personal insecurity, I'm sorry. If I poked holes in your dreams or didn't stand up for why they were awesome, I'm sorry.
Now that I've grown up, I'm realizing that you're the coolest kids I know. I want to be weird just like you.