I recently observed a child playing with plastic toys and saw how he was intensely struggling with two toys. He was fixated on the red and blue toy. I peered closer, curious to know what about those two toys was so fascinating. On inspection, I recognized he was valiantly struggling to fit a round toy into the square space of another.
I smiled. Too many times I had wasted time and energy trying to fit round situations into square spaces. I had pulled, tugged, sweated, been bruised and battered in the effort. It is like putting on pants that are too small. You jump around like a loose spring, trying to get them past those recently expanded thighs and if you do manage, you then spend a multitude of minutes, contorting the body, sucking in the tummy and twisting into grotesque shapes in an effort to zip or button the protesting piece of clothing. When you are done, you are dripping with sweat and the battered pant lay dying in the corner. Shaking my head solemnly, I glanced at the little boy once more; ripples of concentration caressed his face. I thought to myself how many of my friends and family had been in likened situations. We are so different, and yet we spend interminable effort and energy trying to fit into spaces that are not suited for us. Occupying identities we were not designed to fit.
I was once asked what is it about me that is unique. I struggled for a long time to find a suitable answer. But the concept of what is unique about me seemed elusive. Until one day a revolutionary thought struck me. It is not so much that my character traits are different, we share many similar traits with others; or that I look different to others, for some of us look so much like relatives. That elusive element called unique lies in how we combine our similarities to produce individual differences. There is always some element of difference among every person’s, reaction or thought to a situation. With over 7 billion people on earth, that is a lot of different to go around.
No wonder, I am baffled at the obsessive drive for uniformity, this maddening compulsion to fit our round selves into square spaces, or our square selves into round spaces. Many spew vague beliefs of being different and unique, but live lives consumed with fitting in, usually into spaces we aren’t designed for. Countless people speak of being real, but everyday don an emotional, spiritual, psychological, intellectual or mental mask of what is supposedly the image of the ideal self. And so the mass of humanity wearily struggles to make it through each day, as they find themselves gasping for breath, drowning in the fluidity of sameness and suffocating beneath the tightly pressed fit of another’s identity.
I am different. I have never fitted in. I have stopped trying. My sameness to others combines in a distinctive, dynamic explosion of kaleidoscopic colors across my environment. I love it and stand and watch it in awe at times but always in pleasure. It is a unique display that no one else can quite accomplish. Efforts to fit in, for years sent ripples of pain across my psychological and emotional psyche. I make a decision every day to live pain free. To live me!