Tuesday, April 26, 2016
To Conform or Not Conform
In the past week, a conversation stuck with me. Everyday, I think back to the words spoken. I have thought of many ways to write about the discussion, but I have struggled with the direction I wanted to take until this morning the first thing I thought about was how I wanted to proceed with the writing.
My daughter is a self proclaimed geek with a sprinkling of nerd. For myself, I interchange the two words continuously, but she has definitions for them. Being a good mom, in her early years, I signed her up for Girl Scouts, theater, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball. I asked to sign her up for dance, but that was taking my activity arrangement way too far for her. She isn't a girly, girl. She tried the other activities. All sports fell out except softball. She stayed with theater for a year and a half, but a girl bullied her, so I dropped that activity for her. With Girl Scouts, I encouraged her to stay through grade school. In her first school, she was criticized for these activities and fell into her depression partly because I "forced" her to be in activities that she didn't like.
When her life blew up, she quite everything. She was done trying to fit into all the groups without success. She decided to hell with what other people want. She tried that gig all of her short life and continued to be ridiculed. She tried to be polite and nice only to be told she was wrong and stupid. Last year she became callous and angry. I couldn't blame her. I was pretty angry myself. Her and I both retreated to the safety of our home.
With her meds working, she is starting to thrive in all areas but friendship. She has no friends and loneliness is making her miserable. She loves to play video games, lift weights, play D&D, listen to rock music, watch YouTube, and watch Anime. She is playing with being a You Tuber and loves all things technical. She writes and draws. The saxophone is also a major passion in her life. With all of these interests, she hasn't found anyone to hangout with who has a couple of the same enjoyments.
During the day, she walks the hallways alone. On weekends, she has to hang out with her parents. She has invited people over with a small amount of success. She has tried to get invited to do things with others, but there are tons of excuses thrown at her. No one has been rude enough to say that they don't want her to come, but she gets the idea. She has put herself out there and been disappointed.
Now, I was speaking to an adult about her situation. Their advise was for Madelle to change her interests to match those around her. Really? Would you tell a person who is gay to get back into the closet because they aren't fitting in with an entire class of heterosexuals? I wanted to scream that we tried that route. Madelle lost herself for years being ridiculed for trying it the conventional way. She is done trying to please the world. She is done changing for rude people.
And I get it. I am also different. I am a military, redneck, Catholic, college degree, gardener, writer, crafter, gun appreciator, who gets a lot of weird looks. In fact just the other day I was with my Bible study group. For some reason, guns were mentioned. I, of course, went off about loving to shoot. One of the women has never shot before. We looked at each other like we came from different planets. Fortunately we laughed and went back to the study. Simple. Why aren't kids being taught how to do that? Oh, that's right. Adults can be just as bad.
About a year and a half ago, I tried to fit into a writing group. I love to write; they love to write; it should work right? Nope. One person ruined the entire setting and the rest let him. He had self published two or three novels at the 40,000 word count. The rest of the group drooled over everything he said. I listened. We were doing everything the same. I would try to add to the conversation, but he shut me down. Finally, the group started reading their work to each other. With a snide reflection to his voice, he commented on my piece, "this story is so dungeons and dragons." The last thing he said to me after I mentioned my word count of 116,000 for my novel was, "a novel should only be 40 to 50K." He went on to say the rest was drivel. Now, I could have played nice and changed my thinking to match the group. But why? I am not in middle school. He was a bully and I am damn well not putting up with that. So, I am going it alone. Is it lonely writing without a writer friend to walk with me. Yep. But I am not changing my writing style to match this jerk.
I don't expect my daughter to kowtow to the group and become someone she isn't. I have given her a wide variety of activities to form her opinions of how she wants to spend her life. Instead, I need to teach her how to be strong on her own and conquer the loneliness. Our personalities don't mess with the populace. But how do I accomplish that with a middle schooler? I remember how important friendships were back then. I was fortunate to find a dear friend in those years though I struggle before my friendship with Patti and I struggled after her. And really, I will never find a friend as unique as me and now I delight in that knowledge. I just have to walk the path with Madelle until she can walk with her head held high. We are not conformists. We are the innovators who forge the trail.