A Different Drummer? Nine Hells, I Brought My Own Orchestra!

I do not typically watch award shows. Last night Academy Awards show was no different. My reticence comes from one area alone — having to listen to people pontificate about all the people that “helped” them to achieve the award that they have just received. While it may not be a series of empty platitudes, to my own – untrained – ear, this is precisely the feeling that comes off. Add to that, whoever is hosting tries to keep people entertained in-between segments with jokes that are either superbly flat or purposefully outrageous to an insulting and scandalous level. On both counts, I just have very little tolerance to subject myself to that. Sort of like the lack of tolerance you may have to taking a flat-head screwdriver and jamming it into your right eye socket. Late last night, I had a particular acceptance speech pointed out to me — Graham Moore accepting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie “The Imitation Game”. It was not the fact that he had won an award for a movie that I not only loved, but was emotionally moved by — it was what Graham said at the very end of his acceptance speech that prompted a friend to point it out to me. I have included a video snippet from YouTube here:

Essentially, his point is for people to stay “weird” — to not despair when other people ridicule you for being who you are. To not take your own life as a final act of desperation; that there will come a time when you stand atop the rocks and have succeeded. If only that were true to the degree he was pointing out — to win an award and receive international recognition for your talents. But then, we are back to where we were in the last post — trying to define what “success” is and how it can be measured.

I work in a college. Previously, I taught in the classroom with the same college for three years. During my time as an instructor, I measured success by what students learned while in my classroom, and if they could apply some of that knowledge in the final assignment. Most of the time, I was disappointed; other times — and far fewer — I was elated at how a group of students would take to the subject, and broaden their understanding. I joked, frequently, that I would be happy if I could reach just one or two students in a semester and achieve the results I was wanting. Typically, I taught up to ninety students in that time frame. As part of the administration, I see a different side to the “success” equation – students are measured under a grading scale. A’s, B’s, and C’s are considered to be “successes” – anything else is strictly a “failure”. And here I had been sitting in the classroom, counseling students that “failures are not failures – just merely opportunities to learn and grow from”. What a twisted quandary that is turning out to be in my mind.

So, back to Mr. Moore’s speech. Yes, I am taking a small bit of exception with his pointing out that if you stay “weird” – eventually you will be able to rise up above the insults and hurtful rhetoric that tends to be blasted in your direction. I understand where Mr. Moore is coming from – and I find his statement to be one of beauty and optimism, something I really wish I had in my early youth.

I grew up as a military dependent. My family moved whenever my father received a new duty assignment. Making friends was not something that came easily to me – mostly because I knew that in a short period of time, either we would move away or they would. I learned a lot of coping skills, such as walking or biking through the neighborhood on my own – and reading. A lot of reading. It was through reading stories, myths, legends, and history that I found my escape from people that didn’t want to accept me. And it was from those same books that I learned about developing my own style of who I am. In high school, I was considered to be the strange, weird kid that hung out with the “undesirables” of the school – the outcasts. Why? Because I found people who were interesting, intelligent, and not afraid to be themselves. Even when doing so subjected them to such unpleasant activities as “toilet-swirlies” (where you are dangled upside with your head in the bowl, which is then flushed). When I joined the United States Air Force, I spent my off-time answering messages and playing with folks on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). Some of those folks are still stead-fast friends of mine to this day. But that was considered “odd” behavior because I would spend hours calling several different BBSs every single day. It was through the BBSs that I found out that my spiritual beliefs had a name: “Paganism”. And embracing those beliefs – I was considered to be weird and strange within the military community. Overseas in Germany, I was accosted over my beliefs early in the morning (shortly after I had gotten off my shift at 12:15am) in the Post Office location – simply because I had been recognized from an article about Pagans that had been published in the Stars and Stripes. And the incidents have continued on into my later years…to be short and blunt about it – I am far more disinclined to believe in what others call “normal” – I am far more appropriately described as “just me.”

I understand what Mr. Moore is getting at. But I tend to put it in different words – which may come at cross-purposes to his point. I have said this to so many people over the last three-plus years. Both in the classroom, and outside of it. Just be yourself. If that makes you “weird” so be it. That’s someone else’s label. Embrace who you are. Particularly if you are young. I am nearly fifty — not quite old, but definitely not young. I have a fairly good idea of who I am – and I am still finding new ways to explore that. If people see that as marching to a different drummer…so be it. But I brought more than that to the show. I have a full orchestra. And I deal with that daily. Some people call it weird…I call it “me”. Either accept or reject me over it – I am perfectly fine with all of that. But to be honest, me being me is not going to help me to a position where I am standing on a stage accepting an award. That takes hard work – that’s what will get me to that point. Two loonies – spend them as you wish.

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