Stand Out or Sit Down
There comes a point in time where, whether you want to realize it or not, you’ve longed to fit in. You’ve longed to be like everyone else. In honoring the legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away this Wednesday, I think we all need to stop and think about our desire (or former desire) to blend in with the crowd.
Maya Angelou has centered a lot of her work on image and identity. In Phenomenal Woman, she teaches us to embrace our bodies – our wide hips and our full lips, among other things. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she shows us that although we may have been through some wretched times, our songs, or our testimonies are still worth sharing. But, despite the brilliance of Maya Angelou and the beauty of individuality, many people still choose the value being like everyone else.
I remember being in middle school and in seventh grade, my pants got a little tighter. My hips started to fill in and it seemed like this booty appeared overnight. And I absolutely hated it. My pants never fit right because my waist was much smaller than my booty (often a problem still) and the bottom half of my body was growing much faster than the top half, if you know what I mean. And then my tallness set in, on top of it all. But most importantly for me at that time, my body wasn’t like most of the girls’ around me. The skirts my ‘straight up and down’ girlfriends wore were practically a crime for me to wear and although I have never been overweight or obese, I certainly felt so being the size 4/6 among the plethora of size 0s.
And even as late as my college years, as a writer for my school’s newspaper, I sometimes felt the urge to write more vanilla – and to blend in better with the masses. As a writer of controversial topics at ritzy private school, I was praised by those who were down all while I was shunned by the naysayers who refused to confront the dirt that had been hidden under the rug. I was faced with threats, hate mail and even vandalism just as often as my column made top 10 – Every. Single. Week.
“Why can’t I just have a normal experience?” I thought, reflecting on my newspaper stint. Slander, meetings with deans, more slander and my dad wanting to pull me out of school for the semester to protect me only pushed me and my writing closer to mediocrity…all but for a second.
Standing out isn’t all that bad.
My shape? I’ve embraced to the hilt. I love my curves. Now at 24, I find myself flaunting my curviness, in the cleanest of ways of course. Looking back on my middle school haze, I laugh at my seventh grade self. The same girls I found myself wanting to look like back then…long for the curves that I have been blessed with and the confidence that has been paired with it today. I was able to change my mindset from phenotypically challenged to phenomenally created. And my writing? Writing is my air. And I value my point of view more than ever. It’s a healthy way to deal with my frustrations with society and it’s my way of singing my song…and hopefully, the song of my fellow caged birds that are still afraid to sing.
It would be a lie to say it’s not tempting to fit in. It’s easy. It doesn’t require much effort. And quite often, it’s more comfortable than standing out. But there is beauty in standing out. More so than in fitting in. So stop fighting yourself to be like everyone else. It’s a fight you’re never going to win…because the moment you strive to be “normal” is the moment you lose yourself.
Stand out or sit down.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
– Maya Angelou
Peace, Love & Consciousness,