The Importance of Being Awkward

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On the first day of class, my mythology professor asked us to state our name and tell the class something interesting about ourselves. I scrambled for a second, trying to think of something exciting that would draw the class towards me. It had to be bold, but not too crazy; it needed just the right amount of spark necessary to convey the message Hey. This is a person you want to know.

In situations like these, I usually pick one of two stories: The time I accidentally shaved off one of my eyebrows (well, I suppose it wasn’t really an accident. I mean, I definitely did intend to take a razor to my brow, but my 13-year-old mind could not have possibly foreseen the consequences) or the time my dad snuck a pizza into the movie theater. I feel like both of these stories sum up what I’m all about in a pretty concise way: Funny, weird, and maybe a little uncomfortable if you think about it too hard. In other words, these stories accurately convey the mythology that I’ve created for myself.

When you watch old movies from the nineties/thousands, you tend to see certain archetypes pop up over and over again: The Jocks, the theater kids, the popular crowd, the goths; the nerds and the awkward protagonist that the audience is supposed to root for. Perhaps there was a time when these sects existed, but by the time I got to high school, they were mostly obsolete. Maybe we all realized that adhering to such antiquated social norms was boring. Or maybe we all thought we were the awkward protagonist.

I’m not really sure when it was decided that I was “quirky”. It was probably around the time I showed up to class with only one eyebrow. People started telling me that I was different, and I just kind of ran with it: I started doing whatever strange thing popped into my mind without fear of the consequence; after all, everyone already thought I was weird. For a while, I actively pursued bizarre situations just so that I would have something to talk about at school. I fully embraced the idea of being more strange and interesting than my peers. The (ludicrous) idea that I was doing something different, something truly original, fueled me.

It seems to have fueled others, too. These days, if you ask a young person to describe themselves, it is almost a guarantee that the word “awkward” will come up. I wonder how many of these people are truly awkward; how many of these people would have fit neatly into some other role, had they only been born in a different year. I often question the sincerity of my own life: I want my myth to at least represent something real, instead of just being a collection of interesting stories to tell at a dinner party.

I suppose that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. After all, this archetype of the awkward protagonist is doing great things for people: it allows them to fight their inhibitions and find out what feels right for them; it allows them to dare to be original and creative and put themselves out there in ways they wouldn’t have other-wise. Most importantly, I think that this archetype is the reason why we have so many young people pursuing their dreams; this very website is proof of that. And even though I sometimes find myself confused about where the archetype I’ve chosen for myself ends and where I begin, I think that I’m that much closer to figuring it all out.

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