reverb 10, day 8 – beautifully different?
December 8th: Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
You know, I’ve come to really dislike the word “different.” It’s a very non-specific word; it’s rather like “interesting,” a word you use when you’re feeling too lazy or too vague to really delve into the topic. I’m different from everyone else – of course I am, every single human being is different from everyone else. A prompt that asks “what makes you different” is sort of useless without further direction. No one detail about your life makes you totally unique; there will always be someone else in the world who shares your experience in some way. “Different” needs an object for comparison.
Are you asking what makes me different from my family? I left the nest, ventured out from the physical circle that everyone else still inhabits and made a good life for myself hundreds of miles away. I have serious ambitions to pursue an artistic career. I am passionately involved in science fiction/fantasy/geek sorts of cultures.
Are you asking what makes me different from my close circle of friends? I’m more prone to public self-reflection – to loving and participating in activities like Reverb 10 – than most of them. I’ve suffered far more loss close family loss in my life than anyone of my circle. The fact that I was brought up in a totally different city than most of them shapes my history and experiences much differently than someone who was born and raised here in Minnesota.
Are you asking what makes me different from the general culture/society I live in? My passion for geek culture separates me from the majority. My desire to be a professional author. The fact that I attend 40+ concerts per year. My idiosyncratic eating habits. My tendency to talk to myself in public without realizing it. My lack of desire for children.
I could probably make a dozen of these lists, if I thought about it. What makes me different than the girl I was 10 years ago? Than the people in my online communities? Than the other participants in Reverb 10? So forgive me if my instinctive answer to “what makes you different” is “… different than what?”
“What you do that lights people up,” meanwhile, seems to me to be a totally opposite sort of prompt. Because the things you do that light people up – that make people identify and connect with you, that make people want to know you and be near you – are the things that you have in common. A person is lit up by something they instinctively recognize, even if it’s just “wow, I’ve always wanted to do something like that.” People want to make connections. Being different – truly being different from everyone around you – is lonely! A personal journey is no fun if there’s no one along to share it. A companion might just be there to cheer you on, but that person has to at least recognize what kind of inner urge drives you to do what you do.
I may be taking these prompts a little more literally than intended, but the fact is, I’m at a place in my own personal journey where answering these questions with any certainty is impossible. I’m currently trying to define my own identity, so I have no idea what specific things make me different. I have even less idea what about me lights other people up. I’m floating a little bit right now, so I’m going to need a little more direction than a word like “different” can provide in order to ground myself in an identity again.