“I remember the first time I realized I could make myself see something that wasn’t there. I was ten years old, walking home from school. Some boys from my class ran by shouting and laughing. I wanted to be like them. And yet. I didn’t know how. I’d always felt different from the others, and the difference hurt. And then I turned the corner and saw it. A huge elephant, standing alone in the square. I knew I was imagining it. And yet. I wanted to believe. So I tried. And found I could.” ~ Nicole Krauss (The History of Love)
I have always felt different.
I spent my preteen years and most of my teen years trying to bury this feeling. I wanted to fit in so badly. I wanted to be a carefree, “typical” teenager. Although I tried very hard, my mind and heart would unfailingly shake me every time I was inauthentic to myself until my eyes would compliantly open. I still do this.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I found people that understood me.
I was so lucky to have found my niche. But college quickly came and my niche was scattered across the country. I got comfortable with the type of people who couldn’t understand me once again. Once I realized I wasn’t being understood, I started floating in space for a while. Hopping from person to person. Searching for a connection. I wanted to be liked.
In the in between spaces, I’ve spent a lot of time alone.
Strangely, this was something I did a lot, even when I had my niche in high school. I knew I was understood, so I didn’t need any recognition or approval. I could simply be happy in my own company, whilst knowing I could happily be in the company of others.
To be alone with ourselves, and to be content within the empty spaces, is one of the most beautiful things we can learn to do for ourselves. It is when we are alone with our thoughts, where we truly learn who we are. When we know who we are, and accept who we are, we don’t need any outside sources to make us happy.
But I’m human, and so are you (I assume). And sometimes we forget the beauty of this reality. So I let my mind wander in the negative spaces. And I got sad. And I got angry.
When I need a positive reminder I tend to call my eccentric grandmother (our elders really are the wisest). And in her old world broken English she said to me:
“Do not fall if someone is not accepting you. You are going to find the people that are going to understand and accept you. If people don’t like you it’s because they don’t know you. They can’t understand who you are. What do you expect from them?
Being different from other people your age is a gift. God gave you that gift and He is expecting you to embrace it and to pass it on to others. To embrace your gift, you have to sacrifice not being accepted or appreciated by others. You want to throw it away so ‘kaka maniac’ people will like you? You want to throw away that gift for them? To be accepted by them? Nourish your gift. Develop your gift. Instead of waiting for people to like you, what the hell, just love yourself.”
Then she tied it all together.
“There are two rooms. There is a room with dark. There is a room with light. Which room are you going to go to?”
Obviously, I told her the room with the light.
“When you bring the light within you, you are going to behave with light
Talk with light. Live with light.
When you have this light you do not need people to love you or make you happy.”
The light is what attracts the people we are meant to meet.
“And if you do find someone who loves you and who you love back, you are going to bring the light to each other.”
When I found my niche in my senior year of high school, I was surrounded by souls that wanted to share the light with each other. Having friends that know what makes us laugh or the look on our face when we’re about to cry, or that know the words we want to say, but can’t always find, is the most comforting feeling.
Being without that feeling can sometimes bring us from the light into the dark. It can cause us to settle for being misunderstood. We need to experience the feelings of comfort and discomfort in order to experience the beauty of being alone in the empty spaces.
The empty spaces that we float through in times of discomfort are where we learn to sit alone with our thoughts and recognize which ones are real and which ones are simply there for passing.
Author: Gabi Rudin
Assistant Editor: JoJo Rowden / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Richard Leeming/flickr