Being slightly different is something that I’ve always “been”. I was quiet until halfway through high school. I played soccer in a football loving town. I wore polyester pants, t-shirts and ties, often at the same time. I shopped at thrift stores, grew my hair long and didn’t drink. I pledged a fraternity sober and didn’t date until I was 25 years old.
The unifying factor with all these is they’re slightly, but not radically, different. I never like being in the limelight, but I don’t mind a sidelong glance. People’s opinions of me mostly register as their issue, not mine.
Another difference that remains constant is a fairly large beard. Not World Beard Competition big, but big. At this point, I don’t even notice the blatant staring anymore.
I’ve begun to notice potential benefits from being just off. For instance:
- I can now survive the limelight for small amounts of time. I still get pretty embarrassed if the whole room is looking my way, but won’t approach near death as before.
- I can take a beard compliment and know to say, “Thanks!” This is followed by my cheesy Dad joke: “I like to tell people I grew it myself…”
- I can converse with a complete stranger. This was something that would cause my stomach to churn at mere thought. If someone was walking my way, looking as though they might utter words, I’d walk away or steel myself for the worst. These days, I can gab with the person about the state of the world or their troubles… whatever.
And best of all, I’ve noticed that being slightly different makes my life that much more interesting.
A recent purchase illustrates this well. Walter, a 1983.5 VW Vanagon Riviera is an addition to my “weird.” I had not had the keys in my possession for more than 10 minutes and gruff man on a Harley Davidson pulled up next to me.
“What year is this thing,” he asked.
“It’s an ‘83,” I replied.
“It got a sink and stove and shit in it?”
“It sure does.”
“That’s really cool, man,” he said moments before taking off down the road.
I can tell you, that’s a conversation I’ve never had sitting in my 2004 VW Golf.