Your weapon is: 'You're weird!'
Anyone who knows me knows that I am deep thinker. Some MAY even say an over-thinker. I personally like to think (Ha!) that I am just very curious and find lots to ponder. I also find wisdom in some very odd places.
Speaking of which, have you ever seen a cartoon called ‘Fangbone’? The chances are you haven’t. Not many adults I meet love animation as much as I do. It’s a Canadian kids cartoon series in which Fangbone (a nine-year-old barbarian warrior from Skullbania) has to save his work with the help of his sidekick Bill, a pretty average, goofy kid. It’s silly. And fun. But what I love most is that if you pay attention and listen carefully to the show’s theme song there is a line that, referring to Bill, proclaims: “His weapon is - he’s weird!”
I love that. So often in my life I have been told that I am weird. Now that I have a few <many> years under my belt I have learned to consider it a compliment, but in the past it has - at worst - felt like a stab in the gut, and - at best - been worn as a some kind of armour. But now, NOW the cartoon tells me, my weird is my weapon. If only I had believed this when I was a kid.
As a child I grew up in a family with both parents present, and two older brothers. It was pretty normal really. The problem is, I was not ‘normal’. Not by society’s definition. I always knew I was different…I just didn’t know how to articulate it for a long time. I felt so much pressure to be like my brothers, but I wasn’t. And I was constantly reminded that I was not like the other kids. Everything I saw on TV, at school, in books…it all re-inforced what was considered normal, and made it very clear to me that I was not.
I really hated school, and when I dedicated my time to politics in secondary school, the fact that I was already used to being bullied somehow made it easier to handle a bit more abuse. But I was so committed to fighting apartheid (you can read more here if you are interested) that I didn’t care. In some ways that part of my life gave me the courage to be braver in other parts of my life - and also made me realise that perhaps that just because something is considered ‘normal’ in society doesn’t mean it’s right! I slowly gained the courage to embrace my weird.
The thing is that even now as adults, those of us who are able to express ourselves creatively and have been fortunate enough to be encouraged to do so, have learned to hide our weird in some way. We have all learned what is ‘acceptable’ behaviour and what is frowned upon. (Not sure who is doing the frowning, but you get my point). The exact expectations vary depending on culture, country, class, race, etc etc - but there are always SOME expectations. And those expectations can be limiting because let’s face it, we all want to please the people we value - and so we end up constantly conflicted between what others want us to be, and what we know we are. It’s not an easy thing to handle when you are in constant battle in your own mind.
It’s one of the reasons I love people who dress really expressively and differently. Every time I see someone wearing something totally unique (and/or bizarre) I kinda want to run up and thank them. Because even though my first (judgemental and programmed) reaction is often “What the hell are they wearing??”, my next is always to smile with total joy. I love that other people stare at them. I love that some people shake their heads and tut. Because to me it is the perfect, tiniest symbol of rebellion against expectations. It’s one of the reasons I love Ari Seth Cohen’s website and instagram - not just because it is filled with glorious stories of fascinating people challenging expectations in many ways, but because they all seem to be HAVING FUN doing it. People who society tells us are past their prime - embracing their weird and bringing joy to everyone with it.
Which brings me to an interesting line of thinking: So often as young people we rebelled just for the sake of rebellion - or so it seems anyway. Young people always have, and always will. But what if that is life’s way of preparing us for the fact that we as humans are destined to push back against expectations in order to grow and learn? More than that, that our rebellion is NEEDED to ensure we all evolve! What if THAT is what makes our weird our greatest weapon? It is the sword we use to combat stagnation, the cutlass that helps us force change and, the ammunition that expands minds by challenging expectations. Nothing creative or new is ever discovered if we all just do the same things the same way, over and over. We have to be brave and step out of ‘normal’ to lead society somewhere better.
Perhaps Fangbone is a frikkin genius. For a cartoon caveman that is.
PS: If you haven’t got a copy of James Victore’s new book “Feck Perfuction” - I strongly advise you to grab one now! It’s the kind of book you can keep beside your bed and pick up and scan a few pages at a time, just to get a little boost of inspiration.
Image credit: from Feck Perfuction by James Victore
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