Be Yourself Reality

Being Different Is Not Cute And Fun But Be Yourself Anyway

I began my writing career at fourteen as a poet. Poetry allowed me to survive fear and anger and hope in verse and rhythm and iambic pentameter when there were no characters or plot lines that could describe how different I felt. And when I took a five-year hiatus from writing in my 20s, I came back to my odd ways of looking at the world again through poetry. I’ve even had two poems published (Confessions Of A Church Attending and My Thirteenth Birthday) and another poem on domestic violence used in a prison writing class. I don’t post poems Late Enough for a variety of reasons, but this humor and opinion blog is dedicated to poetry and being yourself, which you’d only know if you’d read since day ninety.

“Late enough” is from a line in the poem The Journey by Mary Oliver.

“It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road fill of fallen
branches and stones.”

The poem is about how one day you finally have to pick up your life and live it even when others think your choices are wrong or want you to stay and fix their lives. You have to shake them off and brave the wild night because you’ve already waited so long as there must be a sense of urgency around an unlived life. It’s not too late but it is late enough. As you trudge along the path, over time the stars come out and you feel stronger and you venture further into the world to live the only life you can live — your own.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver

While my life was at a major crossroads over a decade ago, I’ve also felt this way at various times since then — to push on or to stop, hide, run back. Those moments where the stars dim and I can either continue into the unknown and live my life my way, or I can live another person’s version of an acceptable life and all the uncomfortable silence it demands.. I named my blog “late enough” to remind me to stop waiting for approval or safety or enough understanding to embrace who am I and what I believe. To write as if I was not afraid to be wrong, but I also as if I was not afraid to be right.

But it’s not easy to live as yourself if you aren’t naturally like those in your community, whether online or in real life. People have talked and shared quotes about Be Yourself and Wave Your Freak Flag and Live Out Loud since I was my children’s age, but actually doing it when you aren’t surrounded by thousands of people doing exactly what you are doing? It’s uncomfortable. Living on the edge without angrily telling everyone to screw off? Without shaking? Or crying? To stand there and calmly say This is what I believe and This is what I’ve been through and None of this makes me bad or broken or even better than you and None of this means you can dismiss me or be rude to me or treat me less or more or different and What you are doing doesn’t make sense or feel right and it’s okay for me to not do it, too.

The original. The half-truth.

The posters and mottos should say: Be yourself within a range of norms with which your community is comfortable. At least those of us who feel different and act different and believe the world needs to change would know what we are getting into and what we are expected to grow out of when we become adults.

Be Yourself Reality
I’m not saying I’m that girl. I’m saying I’m the person who says what happens to that girl.

I was told recently that I’m a tree on the edge of the forest and that is what makes the forest grow. It felt really good after a tough few weeks. Liberating. Powerful. I rushed home to look up the quote online to post as my new motto. Except it doesn’t exist. She made it up to make me feel better about feeling like a misfit. I couldn’t even bring myself to read the ecology papers to find out whether trees on the edge help forests at all. I didn’t want to be disappointed that I don’t help, or worse, to find out the middle trees are the most important trees.

Because the truth is, I see people who are trees in the middle, whether by accident or by choice or by fear, and I think it must be nice in there. Safe. Calm. Cool. Sometimes, I want my kids to live in the middle. Sometimes, I stop venturing further along in the wild path, and I head back to the voices who tugged at me for so long. I cry and rage and hide under my covers until I remind myself that I had my moment years ago and it was already late enough. I can’t stop now. I can’t go back.

I’m not good at being quiet and cute and acceptable. I never was. My opinions and my battles are mine to voice on here and out there in the real world. The poem The Journey ends with hope but also with the reminder that you need determination because the nights are still wild and the stars aren’t always out. I just have to be the tree I’m meant to be and appreciate the view because in the end, my life is at its best when I make it my life.

Realities of Being a Misfit

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

30 thoughts to “Being Different Is Not Cute And Fun But Be Yourself Anyway”

  1. I’ve always wondered why you named this blog what you named it. So good to find out.

    As for being a tree on the edge of the forest, I tend to be one, too. No better place to be if you are strong enough to not care what many of the other trees think about you. I think that you are so right when you say: be a beacon, but take breaks. In the end, for me it all comes down to trusting yourself.

  2. I love you a lot more now after reading this.
    So raw my friend.
    I’m a tree in the middle of the forrest. Yawwwwn. I wish that I had the courage to let my roots stretch right on over to the edge with you.

    1. Thanks. It was hard to write so that means a lot.
      I don’t think the middle bad or boring as long as you are there because you are naturally there. If you are hiding there, feel free to sneak a little closer behind me. Maybe the edge helps people on the middle move around and rearrange a bit? Anyway, I like you the way you are wherever you find yourself, my friend.

  3. I like you just the way you are. We don’t see eye to eye on every single thing, but I wouldn’t want you to be different than what you are in any way, shape or form. I like your colored hair streaks and the fact that you were disappointed your son wouldn’t wear princess outfits anymore because he got teased. I like your funny conversations with your husband and the fact that you rescued and out of state dog. I like your quirky blog posts as much as I like the ones like this one. And I loved hanging out with you for that precious short time in NY and hope we get to do it again in Chicago.

    1. I hope we get to hang out more in Chicago, too. Thank you for this comment. I love that we can come together without seeing eye-to-eye on everything. I wouldn’t want all my friends or readers (FREADERS!) to believe or be like me. HOW BORING. Plus, I can’t be right about everything (just 90%. heh.)

  4. i am often that “upside-down” girl; that’s the best way to draw sometimes too, y’know, from being upside-down. i’m often told to play nice or chill out. i don’t think that’s for me all the time. the world gives too much credit to followers and not enough to dreamers. if it weren’t for the dreamers, we’d have no trips to the moon. this was a nice post; lily shared it with me. i’m glad she did.

    1. I think we give lip-service to the dreamers but reality goes to the followers.
      I will stand up for that upside-down girl until my last breath. That’s who I am and how I see the world. You are the upside-down girl. I like how the dreamers on the edge fit together. So glad you visited.

  5. So many feels.

    How about I start with this: I’m not botanist. Or arborist. But I can tell you that there are trees on the edge that protect the middle trees. I think of them as being in Canada, but I can’t imagine they only live in Canada. Anyway, these trees on the edge break the wind up. Kind of like how penguins rotate in the huddle. Do you know what I’m talking about?

    I seem to recall they live on the side of a mountain and I think how it goes (I kinda feel like they were a type of evergreen) is the trees are protected from the wind while they grow. When the wind has finally won and those front line trees are no longer, the trees behind them become the front line trees. All the while, the trees on the back end grow. So while the entire cycle doesn’t describe the situation, certainly the fact that the outside ones allow the inside ones to thrive is totally an appropriate analogy.

    Whew, that was a lot. Okay, my next thought. I think you’re more in the middle than you think. I definitely think you’re between the insider conformists and the outsider anarchists. You’re where all my friends are. And that place is my favorite part of the forest.

    As for me, I’m a tree. In the desert. I’m always hot, always thirsty, and no one ever comes by to care for me. One of the reasons I finally decided to start my blog is because I felt like even if a tree in the desert speaks only to itself, sometimes having someone talk to helps. Like I said, even if it’s just me listening. I’ll talk to myself and hopefully if I do it enough and loudly, people will hear me and be interested in what I have to say. And then maybe be interested in me as a person.

    1. I know what you are talking about with the wind and protection and growth. I sometimes feel like I am supposed to see the injustice and speak out even when it sucks — be a voice with those who don’t get heard enough.

      Cactuses have flowers and provide water, too. I think blogging (and social media) CAN feel like yelling in a desert, but do you feel like a tree in the desert in real life, too?

  6. I don’t know how you do it, but your posts seem to come at just the right time for me. I’m at another crossroads, and I think it’s time to get off the main path. Tired of crying and being miserable, feeling guilty for leaving others behind. My family is more important and I wish I had broken free 4 years ago.

    1. I don’t know either, but I’m glad I help! This poem and subtly having it a part of the site reminds me to keep going on my bad or fearful days. It may be late enough but it’s never too late. Sending lots of love and prayers your way.

    1. This post was hard to write so thank you so much for loving it and me. I don’t know EXACTLY where you are on your journey, but I like you and I think you are strong than you think.

  7. Alex,

    Thank you. Your words and actions do mean a lot to those of us out here that look to lead life day in and day out. Raising that child that is not the norm, doesn’t get invited over and such. Does it hurt sometimes? Yep. But he is happy to be with us. Happy to do his own thing. Smiles, a lot. Most of all, he makes the most of what he has, right now. Keep pushing to just be who you are. I know one thing, you are an inspiration.


  8. I moved around a lot when I was young. Never quite fit in. When we landed (7th grade through graduation) it was in a very small town(~1000). In high school I heard the Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris song “Wildflowers.” It really helped to hear someone else struggling to fit in. And having gotten free.
    “And the flowers I knew
    in the fields where I grew
    Were content to be lost in the crowd
    They were common and close,
    I had no room for growth
    I wanted so much to branch out…

    …I grew up fast and wild
    and I never felt right
    In a garden so different from me
    I just never belonged,
    I just longed to be gone
    So the garden, one day, set me free”
    ( )

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