Most misfits struggle against the story that’s expected of them. You know, the cultural scripts of good citizenship that come at us in life: how to be a woman, how to be a man, how to be successful at jobs/relationships/life, how to be happy, how to love, how to marry, how to fit into society. Misfits chafe at the stories placed in front of them or on top of them because nothing about our experiences in life matches up with the traditional or mainstream story line. We hit those story lines of identity and social organization head-on, and the subsequent wreck either destroys us or inspires us to forge original paths.
It would be easier if I fit who I was raised to be. It would be so much easier if I could believe in god and cross my legs and talk like a lady and stay married and volunteer at every.single.school.event my children are in and circulate crowds without retreating into my headphones and pay bills without panicking and have a 401K and work a respectable job without getting into arguments with my manager.
If the way I am, organically, matched up with who I was raised to be. I could slip into my identity like a fitted glove and find shelter there. No one would ask me why I wasn’t someone else. I could feel OK then.
But that isn’t me.
I believe in art the way other people believe in God. I’m not trying to be dramatic here. It’s just true. I have found reasons to breathe again by living in communities of people who choose self-expression over self-destruction.
I do not subscribe to an organized religion, do not make friends by setting a casserole next to someone else’s at a potluck. I will not be found in the midst of a crowd. I do not feel comfortable inhabiting the world I’m in, unless it’s with the other people on the outskirts. Before I immersed myself in self-expression, I was self-destructing. But I have found home in this community of writers who also over-analyze the world, take in its every detail and use our energy churning it into our art.
It’s another way to form hope, without hierarchizing it so that you’re looking up toward a father, or a god, or someone smarter or more famous or more heroic than you. I mean sure, that’s one way to find inspiration, but it doesn’t work on all of us. Our hope happens between ordinary people inventing their own ways of doing things.
I am inspired by talking about ideas with people who have them. By discussing what we don’t know and what we’re learning with voracious learners, people who are curious, hungry like me. We late bloomers are satiating each other’s needs by being like-minded, something we wish we would have found when we were children. Or do I mean embraced when we were children? Because even had we found it, would we have found solace in it then? Even still, as adults, we are fighting against that nagging belief that says we’re not good enough because we didn’t end up who we were “supposed to be.”
That’s why I say it’d be easier to believe in god.
I found my story inside books and movies and painting and music.
My story isn’t the one I was born into, it’s a different one, one that is all my own and because of that, I feel ashamed to tell it. But I shouldn’t. Things can be beautiful in a non-mainstream way: in an odd and different and unusual way. Art can be found in the form of something that makes you stop and say, “now that isn’t what I’m used to.” That weird lumpy clay statue that you can’t stop staring at because you don’t know what to make of it? That is the kind of art I’m making.
(Italicized quotes all from Lidia Yuknatvitch’s “The Misfit’s Manifesto”)