Don’t be weird.
Do not. Be weird.
Those who have called me friend, family or roommate would argue that these are words that, when used together, have no place in my life, or at the very most have failed to resonate with me in any capacity. Well the joke’s on you because I’d say the same right back. However, this story is about me, my weirdness, the attempted suppression of my weirdness, which led to even weirder weirdness, and the eventual embrace of the weirditity that brought me back to normal (which is to say, weird).
On the night before I left for America, I lay wide awake in my bed and told myself these very words: “Don’t be weird. Do not. Be weird.” After a year of screwing up words and cultural offenses and towering over, like, everyone, I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in. In America. Now, there are some of “our kind” who embrace this. They’ll be like “Oh I can’t remember this word in English,” and I’m like Really? It’s yogurt. Stop pretending you’re not from the most powerful country in the world. Anyway…
So I resolved to give the people what they wanted: The Old Emily.
There’s danger in using the term The Old anything. I feel like it implies I’ve been rehabilitated, reeducated, or re-somethinged. What it means, in this blog, is that I thought it best to act unchanged from one year ago. I believed pressing the rewind button on my life’s progression would be more honorable than acknowledging the ways that I have grown. Evidently, using my brain was not one of the areas in which we saw growth.
So, after my re-immersion into America and several days of running around wide-eyed looking at fast food and malls and interstates, I started to feel–weird. Colors seemed duller, food lost it’s taste, stuff like that. I’m kidding. That didn’t happen at all. Actually, food did taste (good) different and made me full twice as quickly (a problem that has quickly been solved at my ever-expanding waistline’s expense). I wasn’t mad or unhappy or experiencing any extreme emotion. I was kind of a dud. You know when you get a phone call when you’re dead asleep, and you’re clearly dead asleep, but your answer to “were you sleeping” is always “No not at all! Just resting my eyes.” Everyone who has ever said that is a liar.
So my sleepy-headed solution was to ignore my weirdness and act like I was being normal, which was super weird and confirmed that my pre-flight pep talk about staying cool actually kicked off my uncoolest of uncool tour of America.
The crime here isn’t that I was strange. It’s that I pretended I wasn’t, and in so doing, I denied people the opportunity to see the New Emily. The one who speaks Lao and has stories about calling ice “butt water” and has new friends and family that care for me like everyone hoped. And contrary to the behavior described above, the New Emily is more loving, more compassionate, and wiser.
I think my wisdom suffered from jet lag a lot longer than I did, because it eventually started to wake up. Slowly I revealed the secret that I was not acting like myself and that I felt weird, and that I had hidden those feelings because I thought people would be like “Oh you feel weird about being home? Thanks jerk. I missed you too” and never be friends with me again. Like friends are supposed to do. And wouldn’t you know it, not a single person felt that way. Not. One.
The revelation here is for me, because you, my friends and family of above average intelligence, had assumed I’d be weird long before I was ready to admit it. Change is good. It carries with it neither shame, guilt, nor the abandonment of the past. I’m changed today, at age 25, because I spent the last year in Laos. At age 24, I was changed because I’d spent a year getting my Master’s. At 23 I was changed because I’d learned what I was supposed to do with my future. At 22 I found a new family in Kentucky. At 21 I started drinking. Kidding. I started way younger (still kidding). I am changing now, because after 25 years, 4 months, and 4 days, I’ve realized that being weird is way less weird than pretending you’re not weird. And that’s as normal as I’ll ever be.