Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Piece Out of a Puzzle

May I tell you something about myself?

I've never felt like I fit in anywhere.

I know I've mentioned this a few times before, but I haven't gone into much detail about the actual feeling.  Growing up in a small town, I was seen as strange for loving science fiction.  I never knew quite how to interact with the others in my class.  I was the kid who always said the wrong thing.  I never dressed like the others.  And where I come from, once someone decided to pick on you, it seemed you could never shake that reputation.  Everyone knew that it wasn't okay to be friends with me.  Luckily I found some friends anyway, but it seemed that most people never even took the time to get to know me.

That shaped the way I view the world more than I could ever understand at the time.  To be honest, I never even thought about it too much until my senior year in college.  My final class for my writing major required a long writing project.  Big surprise, huh?  The class was about literacy, and we had to write about something in our lives that shaped our literacy.  In this sense, literacy means more than just the ability to read text.  It meant, in a broader way, how you read and relate to the world.  My lifelong challenge, in a way.  I learned a lot about myself in those months.

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Here's what I walked away with.

I couldn't not relate in some way.  Even if I didn't know how to relate with the people around me in a way that made them like or understand me, I had to relate to them somehow.  In dealing with my classmates, I felt like the lone puzzle piece that just doesn't fit right.  My place never seemed to be there.  I was different, and I stuck out like a random red blob in a black and white video.

Since I constantly felt like an observer in a world that didn't really want me, I began to feel like the omniscient narrator in a novel.  I discussed this in a previous post when I described my love for tall things.  There I talked about why I ended up loving my role as narrator, but I think this is how I came to be in that role to begin with.

Granted, though I considered myself as a narrator of sorts, there was plenty I didn't know.  I still didn't know just how to change my social standing or what the people I saw everyday were really thinking, but what I didn't know, I made up.  I carried a notebook around with me and wrote.  In enduring a school where people never accepted me, I watched and tried to figure them out.  I attempted to interpret their interactions.  This gave me a great deal of practice.  I am effectively the narrator of my own life.

To this day, I still don't always feel like I'm an actual part of the world around me.  This isn't to say that I can't navigate it like a normal human being, and I certainly care for most of the people around me.  When it comes to my personal life, and my family especially, I do fit.  I love caring for them.  I accept that most people don't understand me, and that's okay.  With my narrator's perspective, it doesn't bother me that they don't know what makes me tick.  It gives me a sense of power in life I might not otherwise have.

I suppose that narrator's perspective is something I'll have for the rest of my life, and I'm glad.  Being a writer, I can use that to my advantage.


  1. I'm so glad I found your site. I feel like an outsider too, I never fit in with kids at school, with coworkers. I have a close group of friends that I feel like I can really be myself around and thats it. finding writing friends that liked the same genres I did also really helped. I agree that it does give you an advantage as a writer, I never thought about that before. You can look at things from the outside, observe, take in, record. Seeing things in a different way is what artist's do. Its a good thing to be different, although sometimes painfull, I wouldn't want to be fake. I want people to like me for me. Great post. :)


  2. Really wonderful post! I agree--narrator's perspective is definitely a good perspective for a writer to have.

  3. Well, considering we both grew up together, we both know each other's struggles well. I think that's a big reason why we found each other in the first place. Sure, our parents both worked at the same place back in elementary school, which just gave us more time to interact, but we were both the odd pieces of the puzzle. To this day, I have a very hard time fitting in with much of anyone. I have major trust issues that stem from the years and years of bullying, and I feel like I'm kind of a hard pill to swallow. Regardless, like you have writing, it's the same thing with my art. I suppose it's always been my way of interpreting the world I was in, and trying to figure out just where I do fit in. It also served as an escape, so I could just get away from the people who were rude and hurtful, and fill a canvas full of color instead.

    Either way, you definitely came out on top. It hurts that people never appreciated you for being as unique and as awesome as you are. Frankly, as an artist, I like a focal point. In the blob of preppy or "normal" school kids, you were something cool to focus on. You're my best friend for a reason!

  4. Awww, I feel so special today. Thanks for the nice comments. And Chelsea, you've always been awesome too.

  5. I feel like this, too, even nowadays. When I was younger, I felt different from everybody else because I just didn't want to live my life the way everybody else seemed to want to. I enjoyed being on the outside looking in, being a fly on the wall, observing. I still like that better. Drama is great on the page, but I hate it in real life.

    Very nice post, L.G.

  6. I had a rather similar experience growing up too. Things weren't helped by how I had a neurobiological condition with a component negatively impacting social skills and communication, a condition that didn't have a name while I was growing up. My whole life, it's been easy for me to be different from the others and to create characters who don't fit the status quo. When you're already different, even when you learn how to pass as normal to a degree, you can get away with more things and are expected to do and say things that are a little different. I suppose a big advantage was that I was able to have so much time to myself to write when most of my peers were doing social things. I had already matured a lot as a writer by the time I was out of my teens because of that.

    Are you familiar with the alternate interpretation of the Mark of Cain in Hermann Hesse's novel Demian? The idea there is that it's a mark of a non-conformist, someone special, someone unafraid to go against the grain. People stayed away from Cain not because of some mark, but because he represented rebellion, doing things a different way, following his own drummer. Ever since the second time I read the book, I've felt like I'm a proud bearer of the Mark of Cain.