The Price We Pay for Being Different

I’ve always known I was different. I’ve known it since I was three, when the girls around me said their favorite color was pink and I insisted on green. I was born different and as the years went by I could feel it more and more, a force I couldn’t resist – submerging me and engulfing me, more and more.

Being this way – It cost me quite a lot.

The price we pay for being outside of what people expect us to be can be incredibly insignificant or incredibly life changing. Mine was the latter.

Nowadays, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about myself (even if I could), but there were times I tried a bit harder to fit in. It’s hard being this way, you see. You get isolated, people don’t understand you, your way of thinking, of talking. My own family had no idea how on earth to deal with me – my passions were different, my solitude was different and my whole perception was different. It made it that much harder to interact with them.

They weren’t the major issue, though. If anything, they made an honest effort, even if they had a hard time as well. As the years went by, we got much, much better at interacting, and that happened because all of us tried and took the time to find those paths that worked, and it turned easier and easier.

But at school, I was stuck in a toxic environment that was not only completely different than who I am, but was incredibly unyielding and unaccepting. I was pushed aside, laughed at, I had my bag stolen, my phone stolen, I was constantly ignored and belittled, and people threw paper balls smeared with spit into my hair almost every day. It was a day-to-day battle, and there were many times I feared I would eventually lose this war.

Those were my hardest years.

And even considering all that, there were times I tried (my) hardest to fit in. I wanted to belong. It’s a human necessity. I went to parties, made effort to talk to people, accepted invitations (when they came). Even with all that effort, it became clear at one point that I just couldn’t fit in.

I understand now that this trying was a futile attempt (not to mention emotionally draining). I wasn’t born to be able to interact with this type of people, and even though I’ve learned to practice it in an acceptable way, it still bores me and means nothing to me to this day. In the end, this trying cost me more than accepting myself. I know that now, but back then I was lonely enough to force myself into situations I hated just so I could belong, even for a minute.

And I hated myself for that. I hated the trying and I hated the not trying. I hated how hard it was and how easy it was for others, and no matter what I did it still didn’t work, and I turned all that inside, pain and shame and self-hate, because if I weren’t me, then things would have been much easier.

Being in that state of mind for… well, around 10 years is not the best thing for one’s heart. It did, however, make me stronger and better. With a price.

One of the prices I had to pay for the dissonance between those two parts of me, the trying and not-trying, was who would become my best friend for a long time.

The first time I met her she made fun of me. Absurd, right? There I was, being mocked (yet again) by a girl whose sole wish in life was to be a part of the crowd. I remember listening to the mockery with tears in my eyes, and doodling her head in my notebook, a rope around her neck.

I was thirteen.

 [And as Cecilia from “The Virgin Suicide” said it – “Obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl”]

 So how the hell would she become my friend? Well, it’s easy to explain and difficult to understand. At some point in that year, she received mockery of her own. I could see it coming. She had an air of self-importance our peers didn’t accept, and they made their opinion known for it.

And at that moment, listening to those words I’ve been on the receiving end of so many times, I didn’t fight with my true self, and I protected her.

I know it sounds like I’m celebrating myself, and maybe I am. Even though I tried sometimes, I couldn’t be a part of mainstream, and there were parts of me that understood and implemented that back then and they were getting stronger. Just as I said to the girls in kindergarten when I was three, I opened my mouth at 13, and said what I wanted to say, what my true self wanted to say.

And that had a cost like everything else that I did.

Because she became my friend (in addition to me receiving some of her own heat that day), and even though it was better than being alone, you couldn’t possibly imagine two people more different. We fought many times, mostly because I was inching, as the years went by, towards understanding and accepting who I was (who I am) and she couldn’t. She tried to make me fit in in what she believed was right, even though she paid a price of her own for that, but those things she tried to drag me into where never interesting to me.

I’m not sorry about having her in my life, back then. She provided something I couldn’t find elsewhere, even though it was far from perfect. The price I paid for having her was smaller than the price I would have paid if I had stayed alone. It was still substantial. I didn’t have “A Best Friend” until my twenties, at least not the one I truly wanted and needed, and my best (and mostly only) friend made me frustrated and made me doubt myself constantly.

And that’s why I am also not sorry for ending my friendship with her. It’s been 10 years now (it seems fitting) since that night I told her there was no point being friends anymore.

That realization was building in me for a while, then. University brought me to a place I was much more comfortable in, and being swept into a group of people, when I was 22, by my connection with a girl I met because we both loved Harry Potter made me that much more different.

I stopped fighting myself, then. I stopped trying to be someone I’m not, and accepted the real me (or at least, I realized that that was what I wanted to do, and committed myself to that path). And she couldn’t. She never could understand me, but up until then I still believed, to a degree, that I was the freak, and even though I still loved myself and wanted to be myself, I had trouble with fully submerging myself in it, celebrating it. And these people I met, who were exactly like me, made me realize how much I’ve been missing, how much I was really fine.

How much I was still a person, still legitimate, even though I was different from the people who were around me when I was a child.

And she couldn’t live with that. And I couldn’t live with her not living with that. So I made the decision to free myself from a person who had become a poison to me, who perhaps has always been a poison to me, only I chose to ignore that for my own reasons at the time.

All of that, it was the cost of me being different.

This journey I went through, with her, with myself, with the people who are now in my life and don’t regard me as a freak, it was taken with a tremendous cost. A Price I will always continue to pay for who I am. It’s not the only way I’m paying it, but it’s one of the biggest ways.

But then again, the reaping is that much greater. To be able to live peacefully with myself, to rid myself from all the shame, and hurt, and disbelief. To love myself, without a little vice whispering evilness into my ears.

In the end, it’s as simple as that – the price I’m paying every day for being who I am –

It’s still worth it.

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