You're Not as Weird as You Think You Are
Do you ever feel like a space alien? Not like a literal beamed-down, take-me-to-your-leader type. I’m just curious if you’ve ever felt like you’re different from most of the people walking the earth—like some weirdo that got plucked from one storybook and dropped in the middle of another.
I was reminded of this feeling the other day as I was driving in my car and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” came on the radio. I remember listening to that song on loop (though I can’t remember if I had to rewind my cassette tape or just hit the back button on my Discman) when I returned from my year abroad in Bolivia. I was sixteen years old and strongly identified with that song more than the people my age who surrounded me. I just felt weird.
Congratulations, You’re a Weirdo.
Sir Elton and I have always had a kinship, though I doubt he’s acknowledged it yet. Many years after completing the Rocket Man musical spin-cycle in my brain, I realized that I was gay and going to have to actually recognize and live that piece of my life if I wanted to keep going on this planet. At the time I was in a nearly perfect relationship-turned-marriage of almost two decades. I felt like an alien again wondering “who the heck doesn’t realize they’re gay and end up marrying someone of the opposite sex?!” My answer was, of course, Elton John. Even in the age of the internet where I could have easily searched for and found multiple people in my same position, he was the only person I could think of who had been through what I had been through—he was in a heterosexual marriage, divorced, and then became one of the most securely queer icons of our time. Samesies.
Like the Wurlitzer jukeboxes from my hometown, my brain would pull out the record of Rocket Man and play it while I contemplated how I got to this point in my life and why things always had to be so damn weird. Why did I always have to be so damn weird? My mantra at that point of coming out (which I mention in my book) became, “Even Elton John married a woman. Even Elton John married a woman.” It brought me comfort knowing that I had found another alien on earth.
Where Vulnerability Comes In
In a recent blog titled, Three Ways to Overcome Your Vulnerability Hangover I lamented about the big emotions and physical feelings that come with sharing vulnerable pieces of ourselves over and over again. But what the blog doesn’t mention is why I love vulnerability so much and will continue to be vulnerable for the rest of my days (or until my alien family reclaims me).
The aforementioned feelings of aloneness would have stayed that way had it not been for the gift of vulnerability. I quickly realized that every time my heart cracked open a bit wider and I felt okay to share another piece of myself, I was met with others who said, “Hey weirdy, me too!” or “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.” And when there were things that I was initially too scared to share, there were others out there already flying their flag for the rest of us to find them. While still in the minority, I realized that the story my mind had always tried to tell me, the story that said I didn’t fit in here, wasn’t actually true.
Stepping Out of a Metaphorical Closet
We all have some sort of metaphorical closet that we hide in. Dark spaces are not just reserved for the queer community. Whether it’s your obsession with stepping on pinecones to feel them crunch, the fact that you love putting peanut butter and jelly on your Brussel sprouts, or your strong emotions toward the amount of dust that must collect on Muppets, we all have a thing that may make us feel like we’re the only one.
For most of these things, we’re usually okay with feeling like the only one. Even still, when we find that person online or (gasp!) in real life who feels the same way, there is a certain level of comfort and happiness that comes with it. It’s as if Gotham threw up the bat signal and a few Batmans… Batmen... Batpeople… all showed up and realized that it wasn’t just on them to save the city alone. Finding others who have a shared experience just feels good. It feels safer. It’s that primal feeling of belonging that we all need.
Why I Shared My Story
I’m not an alien. I’m not a rocket man. And Elton John is not my long-lost life twin. But I’ve found through connecting with others through this blog, TikTok, my podcast, and now my book, that I am also not unique in many of my life experiences. Those feelings of aloneness are gone and replaced with a supportive community. And the fears of sharing my experience, while still scary and tiring, are almost always worth it.
There is such value in sharing our stories and in listening to the stories of others. What I love most, though, is reading a story from someone who seems very unlike me and finding a common thread between us. There is a richness in offering diversity in books, both for children and adults. If we can’t find ourselves in a story, we can usually at least find empathy. But when we DO find ourselves, it is so comforting to know that we are not the only one. We are not alone on this Earth.
And then we can end our lonely quest of trying to figure out what planet we’re from.