A good friend of mine made a facebook post on December 5th, asking people's opinions on two questions. She specifically tagged me, asking my thoughts. I had to mull on it for a while, but I felt like my thoughts were important enough that I didn't want to share with just her.

I've discoursed before on bullying in other forums, including my experience when she invited to go visit the kids in detention with her. Knowing that she's going to weigh heavily my response and have it help shape her discourse with them made me feel like these next words would be even more important.

The questions to consider
#1-- What is the difference between "unique" and "odd"?
#2-- What makes someone an "original" or a "freak"?

Alot of people gave the standard, sort of knee-jerk reaction answers. Two of the words are how we define ourselves and help build us up, while the others are negatives other label us with to tear us down. That sort of thing.

But I disagree. Like, almost completely. It's not that simple. I wasn't vocal about it either, because she's one of the few people who remains in my life from a more conservative background than I can generally stand to associate with. So I wasn't sure how her friend-base would take to my truths. In short, I was scared to have a different opinion. I didn't want to be "odd." Not their label, but my own perception of them and how they would label. Those are different in nuanced ways.

I'm getting away from myself before I've even started. Stop. Step back.

Let's start with question one. Difference between two words. I'd have to argue that the difference is that the words practically aren't even related. Unique and odd don't even fall along the same parallel in my mind.

Miriam Webster defines UNIQUE as "very special or unusual" and "belonging to or connected with only one particular thing, place, or person." Furthermore, it states "being the only one" and "being without a like or equal." "Unique." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. .

ODD is defined as "strange or unusual," "different from what is normal or expected," and "happening in a way that is not planned or regular." Additionally, "being without a corresponding mate" or "differing markedly from the usual or ordinary or accepted." "Odd." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. .

Let's break it down. To me these words are very, very disparate. Unique to me denotes something singular, almost anomalous. There is no replica, no duplicate, nothing like it. Unique stands on its own, apart. Odd reflects un-same, but it still ties to the greater whole. It relates, it can be measured against something else, it still has place, even if that place is apart. There can be more than odd. People can be odd in the exact same way. This isn't attainable with uniqueness. Once you achieve any level of sameness in the realm of unique, the realm has been lost. The landscape has morphed and changed, and unique has broken.

That said, labels are not mutually exclusive. I could have an entire other super long deconstruction post on labels, but I won't for the sake of brevity and focus. I acknowledge that there is some overlap. I'm not saying these are completely, wholly unrelatable terms. Just that the relation is not as strong as many people make it out to be. You can push the boundaries of odd until it becomes unique, but there's a point where once you've transcended to unique, you have to abandon odd. They can't exist at the same time. I don't know that I can illustrate just where that point is, but it is.

I also don't think it's relevant to delve into the attachment of values to these words. Yes, most people see unique as a positive, but what about those of us who that being unique creates an uncrossable chasm of separation from everyone else? And so it isolates and hurts us more than it helps? That's a pretty lonely way to look at unique. And most people would call odd a negative, but what about those who see "odd" in a different light as something that sets them apart, keeps them with but away from the masses, and thus take strength from embracing the label? Some of my oddities are my favorite qualities about myself.

The second question to me hinges on the word "makes." What makes... warrants a foray into definition, perception, self-labeling, and group-labeling. I don't know that I have the time and energy to go deep into all that. It can get messy, and philosophical, and aporetic very quickly. Yup, cop-out. So let's stick to the words themselves for now. Original is is understood as "[A] document, film, painting, etc., which is created by someone and from which a copy or translation is made" and "a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way." Likewise, "a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity." "Original." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. .

Most of the responders to my friend squashed original and unique into an impossible box of co-existence. Original much more closely relates to odd than it does to unique. Original denotes a copy has been formed from it. Original is comparative in nature, just like odd. It is separate, but relatable to the whole. Again, it cannot occupy the same space as unique, just like odd couldn't. Because of their inherent ties to others, they annihilate the possibility of the existence of uniqueness.

Freak is characterized as "a sudden and odd or seemingly pointless idea or turn of the mind," "a seemingly capricious action or event." Also, "archaic: a whimsical quality or disposition" and "one that is markedly unusual or abnormal." "Freak." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. . Even this word that seems to be generally associated with negativity and harmful connotations requires further scrutiny. The same advocacy I've given to odd can be applied to freak. Some people love the word freak, cherish it, and let their "freak flag fly." Another Merriam definition includes the word "hippie" and not everyone considers hippieism a bad thing.

I think really there are myriad reasons and arguments that can be applied to these terms to shade them one way or another. And really, when you throw them all in a pot and boil away everything, that shading is the only thing that remains. I guess we're having the conversation anyway, though I'll keep it brief. Making is an action word, it involves doing, energy, effort. What makes someone these things is action. From themselves or someone else. These words are all lifeless and unimportant until we pick them up and start to paint with them. We can color them with our emotions, biases, and experiences. We can paint ourselves and we can paint others. But in the end, that's what it will always come back to. These terms can be fluid, argued, attached and discarded like fashionable or horrific accessories.

When I went to detention with her before, the lesson was all about showing them they could be in charge of what labels stuck to them and which ones didn't. These words are no different. Words have power, and so do we. To accept, to mold, to change, to heal, to hurt. Power is all around us. We can imbue words with that power, or we can choose to let them bounce off us like harmless drops of water. When you take a step back from language, the way we use it, the ways others use it, and trace back the power there to the wall plug, we find only one thing driving all our interactions, classifications, and understandings.

Choice.

If you want to use those words to empower yourself, by all means do so. Thrive and prosper. Be odd, be a freak, but be great while you are. If you use them to hurt yourself, tear yourself down, or as self-torture, you should stop. You should seek help. You should find a way to move past that. There's enough already out there that will try and smash you to dust... you don't need to help the process along. If you find yourself using these terms to hurt others, or build yourself up by separating them out and holding them beneath you, you need to stop. You're damaging. And you're part of a larger problem. Flippancy and thoughtlessness are rampant, and the use of words in this way are some of the dark heart of bullying. When I didn't know how to protect myself, I came away bloodied and bruised. I can't even count how many times. I was surprised when after seeing the documentary "BULLY" with friends how unlike their experiences that movie had been. I was shocked actually. Because that was my reality, and my normal. Whenever someone else uses chooses to use their power to make their words weapons, often to try and tear you down in a feeble attempt to bolster themselves, I admonish you to hold fast to the words of David Brinkley:

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.

Bullying is difficult, terrible, and exacts a toll. But you can move past, move up, and find strength in broken places.

Having lived in broken spaces, imprisoned in cages built by other people's words and perceptions painted onto me for many years, I now try and live in a way that is as embracing as possible of all terms and language, underlining them with the intent and power of building, helping, and healing. Really, I just try not to get hung up on labels at all. I'd sooner just wash away all the labels that get thrown at me and just BE.



Define me with all your words
Then find me a lesson to be learned
Try to brand me or burn me and I won't let it hurt me

Define me as what I am
Then try me as just a simple man
I’m no harm to you, I’m just doing the best I can

And if I’m defined by what I do
Then what am I supposed to call you
The shadow of a broken past you abused

And if I can stand on my two feet
I’ll break the wall where we will meet
I’ll document our combination for you

We’re starting this party tonight
Where people will be undefined
And love who they want, when the judgment is done
And won’t have to hide

We’re starting this party right now
Where people can shake off their doubts
And send out their love as it moves through the crowd
And people can shout

That they love a man
Or they love a woman
And no one will be judged for love
And I can’t be judged for who I am

Define me with broad clich├ęs
But I won’t undergo any hate for a stranger’s mistakes
I’ve struggled through the boundaries of society’s needs
And now I’m not trying to please
It’s freeing

Define me as God’s child
I am human and we’re all in the wild
This Earth is as much mine as yours in the end
So let’s unite as friends

But if I can lie in nature’s bed
Without the roses killing me dead
I think the Earth has got a point
And we’re a moving joint

And if I can say my prayers at night
I think I’m doing something right
Let’s open up a song of safety
And carry through the night

We’re starting this party tonight
Where people will be undefined
And love who they want, when the judgment is done
And won’t have to hide

We’re starting this party right here
Where people will shake off fears
And mass tolerance is replaced with resistance
And everyone cheers

That they love a man
Or they love a woman
And no one will be judged for love
And I can’t be judged for who I am


We've survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now, I would like to invite you to consider participating with me in #GIVINGTUESDAY. This is an opportunity to share some of the blessings you have received with those in need. Please take a moment and consider donating to either of the wonderful non-profits I work for.

SADS Foundation - By supporting the SADS Foundation, you are helping save young lives. Your generous contribution supports the mission of supporting the families and saving the lives of those affected by SADS conditions.

Your financial contribution to the SADS Foundation supports awareness, medical education, family support, and directing public policy.
https://www.sads.org/Donate?honorOf=Name#.Up4TmCclhB4

House of Hope - Our mission is to provide addiction recovery, and behavioral health services that help reclaim and rebuild lives, strengthen families, instill accountability, and promote personal growth.
https://www.houseofhopeut.org/donate.php

#GivingTuesday #payitforwardbygivingback

So I connected my blog to my google profile and then it erased my description...

I went back and found the cached version just so I could have it. I just didn't want to lose the wonderfulness that was my description.

"I am smitten with esoteric wanderlust. I am plagued by an imagination that forces my hand to eke out pithy pontifications on parchment. I am hopeless, I am nothing, I am everything. I am brilliance, I am dumb apathy. I am evinced and cowering. I have surmounted challenges, effaced difficulties, thrived through struggles, and embraced victories. I do not know what my future holds, just that is rife with adventure, spontaneity, and happiness."

Langston Hughes had a number of thoughts on A Dream Deferred. I don't have answers to all of his questions, but I've finally arrived at what I feel is a suitable answer for me: A Dream Deferred is Not A Dream Defeated.

It took me some time to wrap my fingers around that place of clarity and hold on for all I was worth. I'm still clutching kind of frantically.

In those first moments, I felt like I was back in 2006, redefining everything about myself and my world. How was this possible? These plans... my entire life had been marching solidly in one direction for the last 18 months and then all of a sudden... just like that... snap of my fingers... and it's gone. The overwhelming reality mocked me, and everything fell away. How had I been so misled? How had I not seen this upfront? How could it spiral so far out of my grasp in just seconds?

The sense of loss, overwhelming. The disappointment, crushing. The stark reality, just black.

One of those moments you never want to have. And if you do, you never want to have them again. "I do not eat. I do not sleep. I cannot focus. I cannot study. I cannot think. I cannot breathe." It's crazy how life can twist back in on itself and in an instant thrust you back across years and scars like a song on repeat to the same feelings you thought you had laid to rest for good. Yet here I was. Again.

Even being a veteran at life-shattering moments, in the center of the crash, it's hard to see anything rational. The pain is too great. The realization that what you thought was happening... just isn't. To avoid making it any worse for myself, I immediately deleted my FaceBook. It seemed like the right answer at the time. I was in a place where I was reeling, hurting, and trying to re-establish myself after having the foundation of my life rocked. For a few days I didn't even know how I would come back from something like this. It seemed akin to a deathblow. Done. I was just done. It was over. The dream was dead. Everything splintered, and the dream of the last 18 months was murdered. The last thing I wanted in that space was to talk about why my going party was cancelled to 600+ people. So I erased it. Some people noticed, most didn't. But for me it was easier if that extra burden was just... gone.

I learned in 2006 how helpful other people could be, how sharing your pain can be a release, but this time I thought it would be easier to withdraw further into myself. I don't know why that was my answer. Over the last few months, I've been moving more and more toward introvertedness, which I can't explain. But it's been happening. So I closed myself off. I hid away. I nursed my depression, and buried myself in frisbee and work, the two best things I had in the moment. Like I said, I don't have all the answers. This problem isn't fixed, but I know it's there, and that's the first step.

Once I did start letting people in, they all wanted to have their say about what I should do. They all meant well, of course, and I appreciated them trying to be there for me, but it just wasn't working. This was further compounded by the ridiculous notion (but a legitimate one that still affects me) that this wasn't just a disappointment for myself, but that I was letting everyone else down too. So many people were rooting for me, encouraging me, sometimes I even think that some people live through me. Maybe that's narcissistic, but I just remember how people have commented how impressed they were that I was one of those people who do it. That goes for it, no matter what. I won't be held back. I won't back down. I won't take no for an answer. How many people settle instead of fighting for their dreams? I was ready to this time. I was broken. I was devastated. I wasn't sure how to pick myself up.

I'm working on it now though. I'm getting there. I didn't let the redefinition of myself stop me. I didn't let relearning how to walk stop me.

So why would I let money stop me? The way is not yet crystal-clear, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting. I'm a dreamer, and dreamers implement impractical solutions to achieve the unachievable. Yes, I'm not leaving in September. Yes, I've had to shift focus. Yes, I'm still rebuilding. Yes, it's going to be INCREDIBLY difficult. Maybe impossible. But I'm not giving up. I'm not set, I don't have the solutions laid out before me, but I'm back on my feet. I'm picking myself up. I'm dusting myself off. And I've got my dukes up again.

One of the first moments I knew I had decided to continue on was when this song came on the other day and I resonated completely with its message.



This post is a little more raw than I usually like to post, but it is what it is I guess. Time for some honesty and some vulnerability I guess. I'm still here, I'm not in danger, and I'm trying to rebuild the wreckage of my path so that my dream becomes reality. Life threw me an asteroid, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm glad that I'm strong enough now to bounce back from something like this, even when I didn't see how at the outset. Onward. Upward. "It's okay not to be okay."


 

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