Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Open Letter to People Who Are "Different"

Dear People Who Are "Different," 

My life is full of the same lesson over and over again. In the beginning there was a sense of shame for not being like the rest. At first it was because I was adopted and then the list just went on and on. No, I do not speak Spanish even though people think I should because of the color of my skin. {Yeah, people actually have been angry that I don't and made horrible comments about it.}

For a while I played into the "game" of fitting in. I was a cheerleader for 6 years, after all. I didn't try my best in my classes and thought being more concerned with my social life and boyfriends was the answer. I look back and realize that I wish I'd been BETTER to my classmates and more supportive of those that were "different" than me. 

Then, in college, something crazy happened. I realized that I was really good at working with computers. It sort of came naturally. I walked into my first college programming class.  There I was "miss cheerleader" with a class full of Steve Job's wannabes. For a moment, I was pretty sure I couldn't do it. Afterall, I didn't "belong" in this group.  I convinced myself I was only good at the cheerleader thing and all that came with it. I mean THAT wasn't the person I was. 

It was then that I realized I had a decision. I could continue catering to what others said about me or I could decide to run MY OWN RACE and keep going.  2 years later, I had several computer programming classes under my belt and a list of hands-on computer projects I completed for real businesses. 

13 years later, I watched as my son began his battle with leukemia. I learned a whole new level of being "different" in that moment. I watched as people of all ages would stare at his bald head and his N95 mask. And again, I learned a new level of compassion for people like him. 

A year ago Avery came home from school and told me a little story: 

"Mama, today at the playground I was swinging and  _____ came up to me and said "If you want to be popular, you have to cheer with us." "

"What did you say, Avery?"

"I told them I don't care anything about being popular. I just want to swing."

You see, my point is THIS. There will ALWAYS be people judging you and labeling you. There will always be people who only know a critical voice. 

The only label that is important is the label you give yourself. The most important thing is what YOU believe about yourself, not them. You were made for such a time as this - whatever THIS is in your moment. 

This past weekend Avery stepped out and did something that isn't considered "popular." I saw, firsthand, how hard that cast & crew of 60+  worked and since I was the taxi, their long hours were also my long hours. 

As I sat in the audience of their last performance yesterday, I was greatly disappointed by the loud talking and laughter and criticism around me. I, as a parent, was offended that behavior like that is "ok." The teacher in me was disappointed that respectful audience participation wasn't taught. 

But even in my disappointment, I had such pride in everyone of those kids. They kept going and kept going in confidence. {On with the show, as they say} THEY have re-inspired me to remember all the lessons I've already learned. 

◦ Being critical or mean says more about YOU than it says about those you're criticizing. 

◦ Finding the 1% you have to offer that no one else can will elevate you higher than you'll ever know. 

◦ It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think YOURS is the ONLY path. (Paul Coelho)

◦ Being part of something bigger than yourself is really what life is about.  

◦ Being popular isn't going to do as much for you as you think it will. 

...and so as you continue to grow older remember what Avery says, "Just SWING and do your thing." :) 


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