Someone recently sent me a meme about tattoos. I reminded them that I have over half a dozen, although none in such obvious places as the picture. I thought about it while I washed my hair, and how once my hair was also purple, and what kind of memes could be found about that. And also, my nose was pierced. Other than the first two tattoos, none of these were things I did in my youth. All were in my thirties.
Currently my hair is a plain brown in a sensible cut. My tattoos all easily hidden with most clothing and only my ears are pierced. As this decade closes I have made efforts to dress more professionally, drink less, stay on top of the laundry although I still refuse to make my bed and talk at an appropriate volume level. Yet, I only looked back on my purple-haired days with longing rather than regret.
See, I used to do those things to be different.
Sometimes I’d feel just a little trapped by my suburban life although perfect, felt a little too predictable. I felt like I was going to lose myself in Starbucks cups, Target bags and privilege. Other times I just wanted to feel different. I didn’t know how, so I’d at least find a way to mark it. I’d mark it on my wrist or the top of my foot with a symbol to remind me. I’d go buy a box of just a tad too red hair dye and hope that looking different would be the same as feeling it.
In either case, I was no different than before...I just had some new ink or a bad dye job.
I’m glad for every permanent mark, I have and I’ve learned that hair always grows back as you are not who you want to be. Marks, be it tattoos or scars, always tell a story. This I know. I can’t promise to never get another tattoo or always keep my hair close to my natural color, but I will tell you that I feel very differently about wanting to be different. I don’t need to feel that way anymore.
People who want so desperately to be different, never really have been.
When you actually are, all you want to feel is just like everyone else.
At least that has been the case for me.
A year and some months ago I remember feeling isolated in so many ways. I don’t know anyone in real life who has the diagnosis I have and could have really used a friend to sit down and have coffee with an ask a million questions to. I hurt physically and emotionally in ways I never had before. All I wanted was for someone to relate. I felt different and isolated in the worst way because I actually was.
My differences were actually easier than most because for the most part no could spot them on the outside. No one could judge me for them. No one could kick me out of church or deny my rights. I found groups of people like me online. It is no cup of coffee or hug, but occasionally I have a forum to ask questions to or just scroll through when I feel pain.
Growing up there is a such a tension between wanting to be different, but not so different that we weren’t like everyone else. Wanting to be you, but wanting to fit in. To still have a place. To still feel accepted and included. Teenagers constantly walk in this tension. I guess I took a little longer to grow up than most. I don’t mind. You have to be at least 18 to get a tattoo anyways. And I probably needed to be at least 30 to be able to afford it.
Not always, but for a long time now, I have made an effort to love people who are different than me. To include them. To march for them. To learn from them. I actually prefer it and the more I listen the more I realize how un-different we are. I’m pretty boring and can use all the perspective I can get. I still think it is a place where I fail all the time. I want so desperately to be different, but am sometimes afraid of it. Afraid of what to say. Or do. Or doing it wrong. That it will rub off on me.
Afraid that other people will judge me as different as well.
God, I hope they do.
Even if my hair is brown.