The word "different" often times comes with a negative connotation. Someone who is different usually means that someone is weird, awkward or just not well accepted by society. But that should not be the case because though I fit in just fine with societal standards, I am different. My skin color says I'm book smart (which I am not), my hair texture says my hair is easy to deal with (which it is not), my taste in music says that I grew up in the wrong neighborhood (you mean, San Gabriel Valley isn't hood enough?) and my ability to code switch shows that I am not your average Asian girl who grew up with both parents, lived in a comfy home and never got in trouble in my life.
Now, don't get me wrong... I am an Asian female and I did grow up with a (somewhat) complete family, shelter and food everyday, but that does not define me. At the age of 10, I basically became the head of household because my brother left to college, my father traveled all the time for work and my mother barely spoke English to really take case of business around. I was writing checks to pay bills, calling companies pretending I was my mom to solve problems, cleaning dishes, doing laundry, buying groceries... you name it, I was doing it. Because this was my life, I was even looked down upon by my classmates who were getting suspicious as to why I never hung out with them after school, instead going straight back home to mom.
She must be weird, she must need her mommy, Let's not be friends with her because she's so different. Those were the thoughts from my peers about me that I faced back in the day. No matter how nice and friendly I was, the fact that I was "different" made me an outcast. My family situation impacted my life and that is how it is for everyone. Earlier this week, Professor Tyrone Howard from UCLA came to speak with our staff at Environmental Charter Schools. He said that we often times "overestimate the power of the person and underestimate the power of the situation." I found that so true because you see me and think some way of me - naturally - when my life can be a complete opposite. We tend to look at a person and immediately judge them for what they look like. To me, that part is "okay" and not really much can be done about it... but what can be done is for each of us to truly get to know the other person before we let our judgement affect our actions.
I am different. The photo above is from my travel study trip to Hawaii in summer 2011. In a previous post, I mentioned that I love music and relatively, love dancing (though I have no real dance skills). A friend captured this moment in which every time I look at, I think about how natural and normal I was feeling. I am good at making friends and building relationships. Not because I bribe people or anything (or maybe I do...) but more because I approach every new friendship with my genuine and non-threatening personality. I didn't always used to be this way. At one point in my life, I was very anti-social and afraid of letting people in. Now, I am an open book - you just have to flip the pages. I think about what my life would be like if I had never opened up. Then I see people who bottle all their feelings inside, don't make any real friendships, and all I can think about is how I pray they will break loose one day. It is okay to be different, but don't feel like you have to hide because of your difference.
Nothing is permanent either. I remember one friend who had a phase of obsession with Eminem, another friend who's found a new hobby to become an expert at every few months and other friends who presented themselves one way and with the blink of an eye, was totally into something else. Whatever it is that makes you feel happy, be proud and wear it loud. Even if you think it is something embarrassing or might cause more judgement, don't hold it back because you are doing yourself and this world a disfavor. Be proud and always have a positive goal in mind. It is one thing to be yourself and be offensive to people who are not like you, versus being yourself and open to the fact that others can be, and will most like be, different.
I spent this past weekend in a completely new windy city. I people watched and learned so much about myself as a traveler, my partner as a traveler and companion, how a different environment produces different people, and much more. In the last post, I wrote about traveling being a form of escape, getting away from our own reality. Traveling is also a way of exposure and discovery. There is so much out there that is different from what we know. Does that mean it is good or bad? I don't know - find out!
Everyone is different. Be proud of who you are. Not everyone is going to like you, and you are definitely not going to like everyone in this world. There are several billion people in this world - BE YOU! Be different.