All of my life, I’ve struggled to find my place. I’ve searched for it in people, music, literature and television series. And no matter how many times I have tried to change myself to fit the mold, I have never been one of the crowd. I am unsure if I ever will be, no matter how hard I try.
Growing up, I never knew I was “different” from my classmates, yet I was bullied relentlessly for every aspect of myself. I used to sit in my mother’s bed at night and cry about how people were mean to me and she didn’t have the answers for why they were. In middle school I tried to change who I was so I could make friends. I demanded that my mother buy my clothes from Aeropostale and Abercrombie. I thought that if I dressed like everyone else, I would no longer be mocked for my movie character t-shirts and flare JCPenney jeans. I got highlights in my hair, cut modest side bangs, and wore my makeup the same way that all of the other girls did. I thought that eliminating the target on my back of wearing different clothes would solve all of my problems. I kissed the butts of the cliques in power; I copied them; I was nice to everyone, and allowed myself to be a push over…but the bullying still continued.
By the time high school came around, I made new friends who accepted me for who I was. This is when I found my island of misfits toys. We were the girls and guys that didn’t have a place in the high school clique world. My group consisted of goth kids, emo kids, and LGBTQ+ kids. I started dressing like an emo girl and finally felt like I could express my inner-self on the outside. When the bullies came around, we were aggressive, mean, and hid behind a façade of “toughness.” If we were mean to them first, then they couldn’t possibly hurt our feelings. I thought that lashing out at others made me tough on the inside as well as the outside, but in reality, I was covering up my wounds by pretending that I was anything but broken.
After I graduated high school, my misfit friends and I grew up. We were no longer over-the-top with our punk outward appearance. The wounds from high school healed. The pettiness of the clique-game and what you wore faded away. I dyed my hair blonde; I started wearing makeup that wasn’t thick, black eyeliner. I gained confidence and became secure in myself. But… I still don’t fit in.
College life as an adult woman is weird to say the least. It is a mature version of high school, and although I no longer lash out at those who are different from me, I still find myself at a loss with fitting in. Organizations on campus are comprised of cliques. It has the guise of the real world: the better you work, the nicer you are, the more you get ahead. The reality of this assumption is flawed though. As a naturally extroverted person who treats everyone as a friend, it’s a hard reality to wrap my head around. My assumption of every person I meet is that they are kindhearted, motivated, and open to a friendship with me, because I’m open to a friendship with everyone I encounter. I view the world through my eyes only. With this naivety and skewed perspective, it is hard to understand how others view me and if I truly do have as many friends as I think I do.
I’m fortunate because I found my island of misfit toys early on. They’re my people– the ones who have my back during any type of trial I face. They love my enthusiastic approach toward life and my thought process that spews out in pages of length every time I talk, but the question still begs: Are the friends I have at university really and truly a part of my misfit island? Or will these friends be passing ships in the night, acquaintances with whom I keep in touch by sharing likes on Facebook and an occasional holiday card? Do these connections make up a greater part of my life in the future, or am I still a misfit toy who will never win the popularity contest that is life?
The funny thing about the “real world” is that I still don’t understand it despite living here for 10+ years. I wonder if high school popularity contests are the glue that holds advancement in the real world together. It can’t possibly be true that the outcasts remain “losers” forever. My high school guidance counselor always told me that the real world was different, that I would find my niche and be able to climb the ladder to success. Yet so many advisors and professors tell me that it’s all about connections and networking. To get ahead, one must be able to win the popularity contest. If you aren’t popular, can you successfully navigate the dog-eat-dog world of networking and advancement?
I do not have the answers to these questions, because no matter how hard I try to be one of the crowd, I’ll always feel different. I’ll always feel that I have to try too hard to be accepted and loved for who I am. It’s entirely possible that everyone feels this way, and my experience is no different than the queen of the plastics. Maybe the condition of being human is feeling like an outcast, because we are all unique in so many ways. Individuality is the king in which we all try to battle. As a social creature this theory rings true. The only way to satisfy our desire of being in a clan means to morph into the conventional trend, because being accepted is the purest form of love.
I like to think that we all are trying to find our own island of misfit toys and that the search for uniformity is, at its core, a desperate reach to create a single island where everyone is alike and loved for being the same. But this desperate attempt goes against our very nature. At the tips of our fingers is our true identity: that of an individual. These are imprints that signify our character, which is one that is different from all the rest. There cannot be one island of toys where everyone is the same make, color, and function. Instead, there is beauty in the diverse ocean of Misfit World, one where our ships can travel to other islands but never feel truly at home except for when we find the toys that remind us of ourselves. Will I ever fit in with the large pool of what is deemed as popular? I think the answer is plainly obvious: no I will not… but neither will anybody else.