being "different"

Being different doesn't get easier.

Being different takes courage. It is a risk. It means moving against the status quo, things are they are and resisting the “norm”.

And over time, the truth is, being different doesn’t get easier.

You just get better at managing what it means to stand out.

This is how and why resilience is so important in a world that constantly pressures us to fit in and conform to a norm that, ironically, doesn’t even actually exist. It’s a concept that takes place in minds but doesn’t actually exist in reality.

And this is good news! Because it doesn’t mean you’re weird or wrong or there’s something wrong with you. It simply means that those people are asleep to what’s actually happening.

Here’s what’s happening: each person is being their unique self (there are over 7.5 billion people on the planet right now and no two people alike, isn’t that CRAZY?!) but within cultural boundaries of what is considered, “good, right, appropriate, etc.” either by explicit laws or cultural rules that are followed.

(If you’ve been following me, you know I’ve been writing about this for the past ten years in all sort of ways. If you’re new to my writing, please check out my 300+ archived posts! There’s a lot of overlap because the same wisdom can be repeated lots of times in different ways.)

So here everyone is, walking around being both unique and “normal” in various ways at the same time.

So it begs the question: what exactly IS normal? And if no one is doing it, who actually IS?!

You see what I’m talking about here.

So being yourself automatically means you’re already different. There’s no such thing as normal or the same so different is just reality. But people who don’t get this keep thinking there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to be or act or live or whatever and heap all those expectations and assumptions into your lap.

And that’s the resistance we feel. That’s why it’s hard to be ourselves, if we’re even clear on what that actually means. (That’s what I help people do, btw)

That resistance shows up in all sorts of ways, time after time, day after day. Messages coming from all angles that we are not fitting other peoples’ expectations.

It’s not like we can broadcast out what we’re doing and have everyone hear it once and for all. So it keeps coming, like waves on the shore. Endlessly. Comments. Critiques. Questions.

You know what I’m talking about.

And that’s why being different doesn’t get easier. Because it never stops, that resistance. But what we do is become more aware of it being an endless experience. And we stop expecting it to stop. We stop expecting it to be easier.

We basically start managing our response to it. We decide to change how it affects us. We shift our mindset to help us negotiate the process of being ourselves in a world full of people who are still trying to figure it out and get the courage to do it themselves.

We eat better. We sleep more. We exercise. We journal. We meditate. We take vitamins. We read books.

We find as many ways as possible to manage the impact of trying to be different in a world full of SAMENESS that is really difference in disguise. Or disillusioned sameness.

I’ll leave this deep thought trajectory right here and just come back to reassure you that YOU ARE PERFECT as you are. DIFFERENT is cool. BE YOURSELF and find a new way today to manage how people resist your brilliance because it doesn’t get easier. It’s on you to build the muscle that makes it better, one day at a time.

Meeting the Author Andrew Solomon

I have a little story to share with you. It's about me being afraid, and then--how I overcame that fear and had an awesome experience as a result. I'm afraid. It's true. And I hide a little. It sucks. And I'm surprised (not really) at how much I've been doing it lately (but it's ok).

You see, being transgender is hard. I feel torn between being out and proud, as so many of my beloved friends and supporters want me to be, and just being "me". Not "Dillan who is trans*" but "Dillan who is...trying hard to figure out what trans* means". Part of me wants to be out there as a living, breathing trans* person (hey, we aren't scary or weird, see!) to make the world a better, more accepting place. Part of me wants to blend in with the other guys and not be out there, stigmatized for the world to gawk at.

Tough call, right?

So, the other day I receive this email from a dear, dear friend. She's stellar. Off-the-charts amazingly supportive and wonderful. Her name is Jan and she's a mentor, friend and just a superb human being. She emails me that Andrew Solomon is coming to talk about his new book at the school where I'm enrolled for graduate school. I think, "crap, who's Andrew Solomon?" But, I trust Jan with every fiber of my being. So I go, no questions asked.

I arrive and Jan comes over and says, "come over and meet Andrew". Given my recent experience meeting Kim Phuc just last week and Winnie Mandela in 2000 (and countless other amazing individuals who happen to also be famous in some way), I am growing accustomed to shaking hands with these people who...having achieved great things and popularity are still just...people. People who want to have normal interactions with other people. And I am grateful to meet them and thank them for sharing their gifts with the world.

I know a little about Andrew from the chapters I've skimmed in his book ever so briefly, especially the chapter on transgender folks. Trans* folks like me. His new book is called Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

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I greet him. He shakes my hand warmly and kindly asks, "how are you involved in today's event?"

Great question. I freeze. I'm afraid. "I'm Jan's friend," I say. I feel like Baby in the movie Dirty Dancing when she meets Johnny and says, "I carried a watermelon."

Jan smiles. She knows. I'm terrified in my skin some days and feeling out of sorts. It's winter. I always feel this way in the winter. But this winter, I'm also trying to find my feet as a trans*guy.

Andrew smiles and says "it's a pleasure"...and all those wonderful things someone says when they are wonderful.

I walk away and confess that it wasn't my best effort. Jan gets it.

Andrew's presentation begins and my heart tightens when he approaches the part about trans* people. See, his book is all about kids who have the unfailing support from their family. His book is about the tremendous capacity to love, despite the odds of having a child who is "different" from others.

I think to myself that I may have to leave. I don't have the unfailing support from my family. And it's been tremendously hard. I don't know if I can listen to these stories, yet more stories, of kids who are so lucky to have this support from their parents as they take on really hard life experiences.

But I find the courage and strength inside to stay in my seat. My friend Becca, Jan's daughter-in-law, rubs my back a little. She also gets it.

Outside, Andrew is set up at a table to sign books. I buy a book. Well-worth my $40. I stand in line, wait my turn. I approach Andrew and lean down and say, "so I've found my voice now."

He smiles. Eager to listen.

"I'm trans*" I say.  "I'm transgender and I"m a graduate student here, and I'm writing my memoir."

We instantly engage in a heartfelt and gorgeous conversation where he, in just a few sentences, conveys how much he "gets it" and how I have his support.

*I have his support*

It's enormously heartening to hear those words. No matter who it's from or when it comes.

We pose for a picture with Jan---one of the most perfect on-the-fly photos I've ever taken.

 

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Turns out, being "out" as trans* today was a great decision. Hiding and playing small--that didn't serve me so well during that first introduction. I'm grateful I got a second chance to be my true self. It worked out nicely.

--NOTE TO SELF--

you can buy Andrew's (INCREDIBLE) book at your local book store or from his website right here: http://andrewsolomon.com/