A Resident of the Island of Misfit Toys

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.

Art by Haviland Cardinal

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.

From the Diary of a 29-Year-Old Millennial Mess

Twenty-nine is my weirdest birthday to date. It’s the age I used to daydream about when I thought about the future. It’s the age you expect to have it all together. It’s an age that you feel old, and can finally see it in your face, but are also still young enough to claim being in your twenties. It’s an age you never expect to come, and when it does it blindsides you.

Society’s expectations of a 29-year-old woman are hard to cope with. It is expected that you’re already settled down. Have children. Have a significant other bound by marriage. Own a house. Have a career. Ultimately, it’s expected to have your “life together.” Aren’t we supposed to be living the dream that would make our childhood-selves proud by now? For me, this isn’t the case.

I am still a student working on my undergraduate degree, a feat I started at the ripe age of 18. I failed and dropped out 2 times until this time stuck. Third times the charm, right? I’m in classes with 19 to 21-year-olds and I feel envious about how well they have their lives together. Generation Z seems to have it all figured out. They have approached the world with a steadfast passion. They don’t seem to deter off the beaten path despite their cringe-worthy Tik Tok and influencer obsession. Many graduated high school with associate degrees. And when they meet me, they assume I’m one of them until the dreaded conversation of disclosing my age occurs, and when it does, I typically get the questions, “How many kids do you have?” and “Are you married?” I know they only ask these questions out of naivety and innocence. They’ve followed the societal path of excellence their entire lives, so to meet someone who didn’t, means they must have put a familial life first. But the irony is, I did not. I don’t have any notable “accomplishments” that fit into society’s expectations of me.

All I have are stories of abuse, free-spiritedness, depression, tragedy, fun adventures, and rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret my twenties being a steadfast learning process. I personally had to fail over and over to learn how to get back up. My twenties have not been a story of notable accomplishments and successes that led to a life of pure success and happiness, on the contrary, they have been years that taught me who I was and who I want to be someday.

Art by Haviland Cardinal

Another downside of this age when one is a single woman is the biological clock. Many women my age have chosen that they do not want children, that they’re happy with a life sans family, and although I do resonate with that a lot, I haven’t come to terms with it. I still want a family, a husband, AND a successful career. It seems impossible with the amount of time I have before my biological clock is up. I will not be finished with my law degree until I am 33, and the idea of dating and choosing the future father of my children during a time of learning seems daunting and quite simply impossible. Should I freeze my eggs? How much does that cost? Should I adopt when I’m 45? Or do I just accept a life dedicated to the law alone? Who do I think I am to assume I can have it all?  These are questions that bog down my mind every day of my life, and simply, I don’t have the answers because the expectation of familial bliss isn’t something you can accomplish, it is just something that happens to you, if you get lucky. The biological clock is nature’s ultimate cruel joke that holds up and supports the patriarchy.

Turning 29 is hard for me because of these expectations. I’m not where I expected to be by this age, but I certainly am on the path to be there someday, maybe. I’m so thankful for my formative years of being a twenty something, but I’m also at a cross-roads of wondering if I messed up. Only the future holds the answers, and I’m sure when I am 39 I will still be saying the same thing because we can never have the answers, and we can never actually be where we are “supposed” to be. The expectations that society puts on us are an impossible golden standard that only jaded boomers think exist. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that our twenties are the greatest time of our lives. To think you must hit certain mile markers at certain times. That settling down and having a family while also having a successful career are 100% attainable during this time period. We have been told that success can be measured by money, how many children you have, and where on the map you choose to reside. But honestly, success cannot be measured by these fake idyllic standards. Success comes from within. It comes from understanding who you are, how you face adversity, what you choose to dedicate your time to, and who you surround yourself with.

Is twenty-nine a terrifying age? Yes. But it only is for all of the wrong reasons. Once we can shed the expectations that we put onto ourselves then we can finally sit with our age and accept that trials and tribulations are normal. That walking on the road less traveled gives us character; it makes us unique and creates a perspective that can ultimately make the world better. Vivre les vingt-neufs! Bring it on.

What’s My Love Language?

In 1992, a guy from North Carolina named Gary Chapman published a book titled, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.

He broke it all down.

Gary has concluded that there are five different love languages, and everyone has one language they take more of a liking to.

The different love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

I took Gary’s test, and discovered my primary love language is Acts of Service.

To quote Gary:

Can helping with homework really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. When others serve you out of love (and not obligation), you feel truly valued and loved.

5 Love Languages Quiz Result: Acts of Service

All I can say is Gary is spot on about me.

Whenever anyone, in any facet of my life, does anything for me – be it clean the kitchen or when I’m running late to happy hour someone suprise-orders me a drink so it’s already there waiting for me – I’m sincerely always shocked and it’s not uncommon I’m moved to tears in those situations. I’m an easy crier, what can I say?

I have an Atlas Complex real bad, meaning I tend to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I always have.

So even if it seems like I have things under control, I’m more than likely worrying about 20 other things, most things that don’t even directly concern me – my empathy will be the death of me.

I really, truly always appreciate any and all help. I also never even expect anyone to help me, so it’s always a nice surprise when someone does.

So guys, take the test! Identify your love language so you can both acknowledge your needs and how to explain to those in your life what you need to feel loved.

Once you know your love language, you can refer to the below for some advice on how to approach explaining your needs based upon your love language.

Words of Affirmation

If Words of Affirmation is your love language, below are some ways to explain the type of love you need.

I love it when…

  • you make me playlists of songs that remind you of me.
  • you make a point to compliment me, appreciate me, and encourage me.
  • you share your feelings with me.

I feel neglected when...

  • you don’t vocalize how you feel, it makes me feel anxious and unsure. If I don’t verbally hear you tell me how you feel about me, I question what you truly think of me.
  • you don’t verbally express moments when you are proud of me or appreciate me. It wears me down mentally and emotionally to have to try to assume you feel these things about me, I could be more at peace if you just told me.

Quality Time

If Quality Time is your love language, below are some ways to explain the type of love you need.

I love it when…

  • you are completely present in the moments we spend together, whether those moments are out at dinner or on the couch watching TV, I appreciate when you’re all there and not engrossed in your phone or thoughts.
  • you actively make plans for us to do things together.
  • we have genuine conversations that hold depth to them.

I feel neglected when...

  • you jokingly call me needy or clingy when I ask to spend more time with you.
  • you spend most of our time together absorbed in your phone, or planning other arrangements.

receiving gifts

If Receiving Gifts is your love language, below are some ways to explain the type of love you need.

I love it when…

  • I’m feeling down and you give me small tokens to try to boost my spirits.
  • buy me a thoughtful souvenir whenever you are traveling without me.
  • special occasions are never forgotten and always paired with intentional gifts that have great symbolic value.

I feel neglected when...

  • you forget special occasions.
  • the gifts have no deeper meaning behind them, they’re just given to me out of duty.

Acts of Service

If Acts of Service is your love language, like mine, below are some ways to explain the type of love you need.

I love it when…

  • I can count on you.
  • you make it a point to do whatever you can to help ease stressful situations.
  • you help with chores or errands without even being asked.

I feel neglected when...

  • you drop the ball and forget to do the task you promised.
  • you ignore my requests for help, no matter how loud or silent those requests may be.

Physical touch

If Physical Touch is your love language, below are some ways to explain the type of love you need.

I love it when…

  • I’m not the one always initiating the intimacy.
  • we’re walking and you hold my hand or put your arm around me.
  • you frequently give warm, affectionate hugs.

I feel neglected when…

  • we go long periods without any intimacy at all.
  • you coldly show affection.