"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and to never stop fighting." - e e cummings
There is the story of me as an eight year old kid, fully hated by my third grade teacher and told that if I say another word I'm going to the Vice Principle's office. I go about my business and two boys, knowing I cannot speak or retaliate, steal the game I'm playing. I respond by drawing a series of rudimentary butts (essentially "( | )" with one farting and one pooping two balls of poop) to 'cuss them out.' The teacher loses her shit - I am pornographic, disturbed, in need of psychiatric evaluation. Of course, as an eight year old, I think it's the end of the world. The Vice Principal hates me, too. My mom comes in and fights the dragons with the force of a small cadre of hardened Marines.
Throughout grade school, teachers continued to hit my young, struggling mother with demands that I be put on drugs to control my hyperactive nature. My mom repeatedly responds by telling them to take their Nazi mind control drugs and stuff them in their tightly wound up rectums.
High school was more accepting with excellent teachers funneling all my energy and anti-authoritarian ways into creative pursuits. Debate, forensics, writing, drama. As an artistic wannabe, it made some sort of cosmic sense that I did not fit the conformist mold being forced upon everyone and I found members of my tribe. The miscreants, the criminals, the weirdos, the geeks.
College, where I first try to fit in with a highly religious crowd (fail). Then go to a state school in Arkansas and cause so much trouble with the Music Faculty, they finally grant me and a host of others our own travel bus (deemed "The Land of the Band Damned"). T-shirts made with my face screaming worn by the very same Band Damned. A day-to-day decision to NOT fit in, to resist conforming to what is proscribed as the comfortable path.
My teaching career of a decade complete with a folder of pink sheets indicating my refusal to play by the rules.
A theater that produces aggressively uncommercial fare and refuses to court the established awards organization, picks fights with the critics, pushes DADA in the faces of downtown Christmas theater goers.
A host of a national story slam that specifically dictates 'no poetry' and I choose to open every show with a poem.
There are days when I grow tired of the constant battle. There are days when I lie in bed and wish that I could simply fall in line and play by the rules. To be contrite and apologetic. To be liked by everyone and to simply be among the masses, going along to get along. Being a 'productive member' of the herd, a responsible, cooperative cog in the machinery of society.
Jesus Christ, there are days when I realize I have more in common with the Wicker Park Litter Curator, an obviously mental ill man who wanders Division Street, pulling trash out of cans and throwing it out into the world, muttering to himself, barking at strangers, than the people cowering in fear of him, and I despair.
Most days, however, I feel an understanding of the fact that those of us who do not fit the jigsaw puzzle of society will never really belong to a tribe. To fit into a tribe requires the ability to...well...fit in. Those in the world whose edges rarely find another piece to conjoin with are destined to float around in the box where the rest get frustrated that the puzzle remains incomplete. After trying to force that piece to fit, giving up in frustration, we are there, in the margins, declaring by existing that all is not to be found in conforming.
I am lucky to have found one piece that fits and she and I are our very own Kingdom of Two, fitting one another but no other. Not really.
We celebrate the fictional outliers - MacMurphy and Chief, Tyler Durden, Beatrix Kiddo, Han Solo, Katniss Everdeen, Jason Bourne, Imperator Furiosa, Morpheus and Neo - but would fear and destroy them in the actual world.
I comprehend that while I fall devastatingly short of these stylized rogue elements, I am fundamentally tied to the idea of them. This who I want to be. This is who I am.
Is this a carefully chosen narrative? A manifesto? Wishful thinking? An excuse?
Yes. It is.