In kindergarten, I announced to my friends and family that I was “a woman of destiny” who spoke two languages: English and “cat.” (My teachers, at one point, had to separate me from my best friend for excluding others when speaking cat.)
As my grade school education continued, my pastimes evolved. I taught myself to bake bread, filling our freezer with numberless misshapen loaves of rye. On weekends, I read the newspaper while eating radishes and raw onions. I wore mismatched socks. I wrote, illustrated, and performed a short story in which the starring character was a pair of underwear owned by an aging rock star named Steve. The underwear was a character of interest because it possessed the ability to sprout Greek gods from its elastic waistband.
In short, I was a quirky child. And proud of it. “I’m weird!” I proclaimed to my family one day in the car.
“‘Weird’ has such negative connotations,” my dad told me. “There are better words to use than that. You could say ‘unusual’ instead.”
“I’m strange!” I offered.
He paused. “How about ‘unique’?”
I don’t remember the exact moment when my feelings about being “unique” or “unusual” changed, but they did—as I suspect they do with many people—around the time I entered junior high.
I began wearing an inordinate amount of gray. I spent many, many hours wondering what it meant to be cool, or pretty, or smart. I suddenly became shy, to such a degree that I forgot what it was like to be anything else. (In other words, gone were the days of personifying magical undergarments.)
I assumed this was who I was. It was years—ten, at least—before I remembered that it wasn’t.
While cat language, raw onions, and mismatched socks are no longer fixtures in my life, a certain quirkiness—and a bottomless affection for all things weird—has remained. My favorite part about working in a creative field is that I’m allowed the freedom to play, to seek out adventure, to let my imagination run wild. It’s what I enjoyed most about life as a child, and it’s what I enjoy most about life as an adult.
As the saying goes, “the creative adult is the child who survived.”
There’s a picture of me somewhere, at age seven or eight, walking my pet rabbit (who I’d named after a long-deceased Hawaiian queen) on a purple leash. I’m wearing bright yellow bike shorts and a giant pink bow on top of my head, and I’m standing in full view of traffic on the lawn in front of my house.
I look ridiculous. But, also, completely at ease. And very happy.
That part of me—the rabbit walker, the storyteller, the fearless wearer of neon-colored athletic gear—still exists, at least in spirit. And I’m grateful that it does.
I’m all the braver, bolder, weirder—and happier—for it.