When Did You Become a Misfit?
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
On Saturday, I set up at the New Orleans Art Market in Marsalis Harmony Park (formerly Palmer Park) at the corner of Claiborne and Carrolton. The weather was beautiful, cool and sunny. Not as many people as usual came out, but considering that we just endured a Category 5 Hurricane, it wasn't surprising.
Around mid morning, a group stopped to browse my art: a mother, her sister, and a nine year old daughter. The daughter possessed that serious, quiet air that I remember very well from my own childhood. Big brown eyes were intense with concentration as she examined my small canvas selection, seemingly drawn to two that depict a matched skeleton couple. The girl's focus was completely on the art.
Her aunt watched her niece with a look of indulged amusement, telling me that the girl has an entire wall of skeletons. Her mother shrugged a little defensively and flipped through my print box.
After a few moments, the girl turned to her aunt and nodded solemnly. Apparently, my art belonged on her skeleton wall.
I bagged the pieces and the family was on their way.
I could very much see myself in that solemn girl. From the beginning, I remember that I felt different from the other children. I read a lot, choosing books on topics like past life regression and the secrets of Stonehenge.
My parents let me read whatever I chose at the library, but I know my mother didn't know what to do with me. She expected a girl that loved fluffy bunnies and pink dolls, but I wanted to learn about ancient Egypt and vampires.
She turned my room into a shrine for the girl that I wasn't: French provincial furniture, Victorian girl wall paper, and lots of frilly pink and lavender.
I wasn't allowed my version of a skeleton wall and I learned to maintain appearances as I grew older. I struggled with fitting in, appearing like everyone else. I didn't do it particularly well, but I did try.
When I moved to New Orleans for school, I finally felt like I could breathe. I may be strange and unusual but New Orleans made me realize that I wasn't as unusual as I'd believed. I'd found a city full of misfits, perhaps strange in ways different from own, but definitely not the cookie cutter norm that I'd grown up with.
I think many of us have similar stories, struggling to fit in, to belong. We didn't want attention drawn to us, because that attention would always be negative. We couldn't live our weirdness out loud. We kept it carefully tucked away, thinking and fearing that we'd never find others quite like us.
My newly created Oracle card for the week, the Lily of the Valley, means sweetness and pure love. I don't remember that feeling of full support or understanding from my own youth, but I could see that the aunt and the mother of that girl were trying.
I don't think they quite understand her passion for skeleton art, but they wanted her to be able to express who she was and what she liked.
I thought of my own childhood walls that felt like someone else's room; that feeling that there was something inherently wrong with me for liking the things that I liked. I tried pretending that I was different. I tried to be the girl that would like flounces and frills and pastel colors, but I wasn't that kind of girl.
So many of us grow up feeling like the outsider, and struggling to pretend that we are exactly like everyone else. Growing back into who we were and who we were meant to be can be a long struggle.
I'm still trying to dig out all the pieces of that girl that I tucked away in a back corner of my mind. I'm trying to integrate that shadow self back into my main identity.
I'm weird and it's ok to be weird and to like weird things.
If you're reading this, you probably feel the same way. There are so many more of us than I could have dared dream as a child. Diversity and strangeness are good things. Don't be afraid to keep on living outside of the normal box.
We're all in excellent company.
Thanks for stopping by and spending a little time.