Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Acceptance, Normalcy are Overrated

“You're mad, bonkers, off your head. But I'll tell you a secret - all the best people are.”

This line from Tim Burton's “Alice in Wonderland” – introduced early on by Alice’s dad, and repeated later by Alice herself – epitomizes a guiding philosophy not just in my daily life, but in my role as parent.

I’d rather be bonkers than normal.

Hopefully this philosophy explains why, 12 years after becoming a parent, I have twin 10-year-old daughters who aren’t afraid to act goofy or be considered “weird,” and a 12-year old son who is fearless of trying anything new.

Worrying about acceptance is a waste of time and energy. Some may consider it a personality flaw not to be interested in “belonging.” But acceptance isn’t really my thing.

My vocation as an opinion writer and humorist is quite possibly an extension of an inherent personality flaw: I get paid to make fun of myself and voice quirky, arguable opinions. In doing so, I hope to make readers think, or at least chuckle or gasp in frustration before calling me a complete idiot. And I’m thrilled when readers react; especially when they disagree.

How can a person know her capabilities if she doesn’t test the limits, personally, mentally, physically and  socially?

If everyone spent his or her life worrying about being accepted, whether by individuals, groups, or political parties, there would be no variation among humanity’s nearly seven billion members.

If everyone were normal, we’d be one big, happy – and agreeably stupid – bunch of androids.

Despite my aversion to normalcy, I don’t think I’m a selfish, social imbecile; I do cherish the value of a good reputation. Given nothing else, a person can forge a path for herself with intelligence and a good reputation.

Nevertheless, I hope people don't consider me “normal.” Normal is boring. The parts of reputation, however, that deserve the most attention, are the parts defined by personal values, ethics, humility, sense of humor, level of compassion, and the wisdom to know when and where to dive into a situation – or back off.

I’ll admit that when I enter a new situation, I stand back and observe for a range of time spanning anywhere from 2.5 seconds to 2.5 weeks, depending on the type of situation, the size of group, the frequency of gatherings, the location of gatherings, and how much beer is poured. On rare instances in which I don’t reach the comfort-level to be my true self, then the group is likely not right for me – or I for it. No love is lost by parting before we began.

It’s not worth it to live a life based on other people’s idea of normalcy.

In being bonkers, however, I have learned that when I’m able crack through others’ outer layer, most folks are not only amused but relieved to be in the presence of someone who doesn’t worry about fitting a so-called “normal” mold.

It's good to be "mad, bonkers, off your head."

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