“One of the most sacred duties of one’s destiny is the duty to be yourself.”
- John O’Donohue
“[Some people] have a deep awareness that fulfillment cannot be found through acquisition and achievement. They often feel like misfits because of the different, deeper, ungraspable love they feel inside them. For them, the journey is not so much toward realization of their desire as toward being able to claim the desire they already have in a culture that neither understands nor supports it.”
- Gerald D. May
For as long as I can remember I’ve never felt as if I “fit in.”
I’m a gay man, so I remember as a boy feeling as if I didn’t belong with the other boys. I couldn’t identify with them, or understand why they were so rough and tumble with each other. I never understood their fierce competitiveness, or their near violent obsession with the opposite sex. Straight boys have this need to constantly prove their masculinity to each other, and I always found that incessant and brutal rite of passage exhausting—so I’d opt out it often and just be the quiet kid who kept to himself. This, of course, made me a kind of loner for much of my childhood years.
I’m also Latino, so I remember as a boy feeling invisible when I looked on TV, or watched movies, and didn’t see a face that looked like mine on the screen. The people on TV didn’t eat tortillas, or chile like my family did, and didn’t dialogue in a strange compendium of English, Spanglish, and Spanish like my family did. The people in the movies didn’t travel to Mexico every summer to visit their relatives. When you grow up with few representations of your community in the mainstream, you often feel unseen and overlooked. You are keenly aware of not being “normal.”
I’m also an artist, and so, for as long as I can remember I have always felt like my artistic work never really contributed anything important to the community. During college, I studied theater. I acted in, wrote, directed, and produced plays. But it was hard not to feel as if I wasn’t a misfit among a group of misfits when compared to my fellow, more sober university students. My theater friends and I all dressed weird, we were far too melodramatic, we had strange tastes, and we had a quirky sense of humor.
I have so many fond memories of being in the theater world. Yes, we were all weird, and all so “out-of-the-box,” but we had so much fun and we loved each other very much. We laughed until we were sore, we played until we were exhausted, and we even experimented late into the night. The rest of the university may have gathered that we weren’t really working because we were having so much fun, but we, the theater people, would’ve argued fiercely to the contrary. No, our work was not conventional, and it was often harder to understand why it was so necessary for humanity, but we couldn’t help ourselves: theater was who we were.
Now, today, I am a writer working on his first novel. I am also a blogger who blogs about the novel-writing process. We forget, because we have so quickly gotten used to it, but my position is a relatively new one in this day and age. It is very “unconventional.”
So, yet again in my life, I find myself living completely outside of the box.
This is why, if you were to ask me what being normal feels like, I don’t think I could ever give you an answer.
I’ve never been “normal.”
How to Live Outside of The Box
If you, too, feel as if you must live life “outside of the box,” you might be asking yourself:
“How do I live outside the box?”
Well, in my experience, you just have to accept that you have no choice in the matter.
If you live outside the box, then you were born to live outside the box.
I was born gay, I was born Latino, and (it is my belief that) I was also born to be an artist. (As I said many times before: a writer is who you are, not what you do.)
So, no, I don’t think you have any choice. The only choice you have is the choice between denying your true nature and just accepting it. Which really isn’t a choice at all: it’s like a choice between life and death—and who would choose death, when you can live?
Now, many people go through life denying who they really are. These people suffer. They may seem to “fit in” on the outside, but leave no doubt: they are suffering inside. (There are grave consequences to denying who we are.)
Although it may seem difficult in the short-term, in the long-term, accepting who you are will bear you much fruit. On the other hand, denying who you are, although it may seem to be beneficial in the short-term, will cause you heavy damage in the long-term.
Spare yourself that damage. Just accept who you are.
Stop Trying To Fit Into “A Box”
Many of the questions I get from my readers are “please-put-me-back-in-the-box” questions. They are questions that ask me how a person can conform to an ideal: how can they can become more “normal,” more “conventional,” more “disciplined,” more like the perfect writer they all imagine exists someplace, somewhere.
Often, I work very hard to untangle their questions. I try to change the intention: I try to get them out of trying to fit “into a box,” and I try to get them into cherishing and rejoicing the fact that they are unique individuals who are meant to live “outside of the box.”
This is a very hard thing to do, as I often receive much resistance. People are desperately trying to fit into a “box,” and they really don’t like it when you tell them that there is, in fact, no “box” to fit into.
But, I swear to you, being “in the box” is completely overrated.
In fact, I am starting to think that nobody has ever fit into a box, and none of us will ever fit into one. We are just not mean to be conventional. Each of us is meant to be brand-spanking new.
I really, truly, believe that our journey is not to learn how to become more like everyone else, our journey is to learn how to become more like ourselves.
Our destiny is to live “outside of the box.”
much unconventional love,