Monday, August 15, 2011

Is Being "Other" A Wall that Separates, or
A Bridge to Connect?

Was pondering this idea the other day.  (I love to ponder, almost as much as I love to eat chocolate.)

For a lot of writers, our need to express ourselves through the written word may have come about through a sense of "otherness."

Maybe we were the only Asian kid in what seemed like a sea of blue-eyed blondes.  (Or vice versa)  Maybe our parents were divorced and we thought we were the only ones without parents living together.  Maybe we'd experienced death in the family - of a parent, or a sibling.  Maybe we were LGBT, and didn't know what to do with those "weird" feelings.

We weren't (usually) captain of the football team or president of the student council.  We might have had few friends, one, or even none.  Often we could be found with our noses buried in a book.

We could get very absorbed in our otherness, in how different we are from others.  How life has treated us unfairly.

Or we can use our otherness and pain to connect with others. To consider it a gift.

I was (and am) definitely "other" in many ways, and while that's been painful at times, I know that's what led me to write. 

People who feel estranged may take a different path - they may become teachers, painters, therapists.  They may dive deep down the neck of a liquor bottle, or try to smoke the pain away.  (Or become an artist who also abuses substances.)

I find that for myself, I turn off to those who glorify their "otherness" as a badge of honor, or martyrdom: the "I'm such a Genius (or, I'm Such A Victim) No One Can Possibly Understand Me" attitude.

Understanding is a two-way street.  If you have decided in advance that no one will ever understand you, then no one ever will.  But if you reach out, creatively express your "otherness" and at the same time, be open and interested in the feelings and expressions of those outside yourself, there is that chance that someone can understand you after all.

If I don't write to be understood, to touch others and make them think and feel, to share a moment, then what I'm doing is literary masturbation.

Have you been (or are you now) "other" in some way?
Do you use it as a gift, or consider it a curse?
Other thoughts?