On Friday, Jamie and I went for a walk in the middle of the night. We’d been waiting all day for the rain to end, and it finally let up well after midnight. By that time, cabin fever had already hit me hard.
One of the common side effects of being self-employed is an intimate relationship with staying indoors much too long, much too frequently (especially in temperate climates). So even before we got outside, I was already (literally) hopping up and down like a dog eager to go for her walk, eager to get that sat-down-too-long feeling out of my legs. When my body wants to move, it communicates. Loudly.
When we got outside, I got wild. As Jamie walked calmly and—though I usually hesitate to use this word, it definitely applies here —normally, I looked like I’d just taken an entire package of caffeine pills.
I alternated between running semi-on-the-spot, doing high knees, jumping with both my feet forward, and skipping. It felt fantastic, and I was only partially aware of how silly I must have looked, just enjoying the energy I was creating under my skin.
I think it helped that Jamie just continued to speak with me as if I wasn’t doing any of these things—neither praising nor judging them—simply allowing me to do whatever I wanted to do and being comfortable with my strange moods and behaviours, accepting me fully as usual.
After dragging him up a hill and back, we walked (well, he walked, I skipped) towards a more populated area of town. That’s when I saw them.
The blurry outlines of, gasp, people.
Suddenly, I became aware of just how ridiculous I looked, skipping like a child beside this totally cool, calm man with his hands in his pockets. But I didn’t stop.
I listened to my thoughts as I kept skipping closer and closer to the silhouette of three young boys.
My mind said, “But you look so stupid, what if they judge you? What if, after you walk by, they talk about how strange and awkward and weird you are? What if they call you crazy?”
I listened, calmly, and after the thoughts started to circle back on themselves, having clearly exhausted all of their original ideas (as thoughts will often do), I made my case.
“Well,” I said to myself in my head, “Yes, they might judge me. They might think I’m weird and crazy. But, maybe one of them has always wanted to skip in the street. Maybe one of them does skip in the street when no one is looking and, when he sees people, he switches to walking. Maybe he walks down the street singing, and maybe he stops when he gets into the coffee shop or the grocery store because god forbid he enjoy himself around other people. Maybe, just maybe, one of these guys is a great, big weirdo, just like me, and he spends his life hiding that from people.
Maybe he really needs me to be weird. Maybe he needs me to keep skipping, just so he can skip too.
And you know what? Inspiring that one person to just come right out and do what s/he wants to do is a thousand, million, billion times more important and valuable than avoiding the real or imaginary judgment of complete strangers. So, yes, I’m weird. And I might get judged for that. And it’s also my responsibility to the other weirdos of the world to be my weird self. Loudly.”
And that was that.
My thoughts had no good argument.
And so, we walked/skipped by what turned out to be three teenage boys on their bikes, who were staring forlornly at the bar across the street where of-age people were gathered smoking cigarettes. They asked us “What’s good?” and even moved off the sidewalk so we could pass.
And who knows, maybe, after I’d skipped by, they looked after me and said, “Wow, I want whatever she’s on.” Or maybe they said, “What a f*#$in’ weirdo!” Or maybe they said, “Do you think they have weed?” or, even more likely, nothing, because why should I be so important that each of my behaviours warrants a verbal or mental comment from a bunch of strangers?
But maybe, just maybe, one of those kids or one of the people outside of that bar, knew exactly what I was up to and exactly why it was so hard for me. Maybe I changed a life back there. Maybe I didn’t. I’ll never know that, but I will tell you one thing I do know—it’s better to live your life being your great, big, weirdo self, never knowing whom you’ve inspired, never receiving any gratitude or praise from anyone, than to live your life being afraid of other people’s judgment, even if they shower you with approval.
I’d even go a step further to say that it’s better to be criticized for being really weird than be adored for fitting into every cultural paradigm you’ve had thrown at you.
And I don’t mean intellectually, logically, better. It just, literally, feels better. It feels like self-respect. It feels like there’s an inner wisdom that withholds happiness from you until you’ve done what it tells you to do, and when you’ve satisfied its bidding, it rewards you with feelings so much more powerful and lasting than approval that it makes people-pleasing seem like a chore. It gives you love. You give yourself love. Real, universal, beautiful love.
So I hope that, next time you’re walking in the street singing to yourself, and you see people coming up, you keep on singing.
Don’t deprive that person, who might just be as scared as you are of being seen, of the opportunity to be inspired by your courage.
And next time you’re around people, and you’re wondering whether they’ll think you’re weird, fretting about what to say and not to say, you take a moment and tell yourself: “Yes, I’m weird. And it’s my responsibility to the other weirdos of the world to be my weird self. Loudly”
And let that be that.
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