But I digress.
I had lunch with a dear, dear friend today, and we discussed how difficult it was as a young person and teen to be "different" from other young people and teens. Oddly enough, I thought that as I aged, it would all be made up to me: that people would welcome my idiosyncrasies as just "who I am" and not attempt to imagine my motivations...and that, though my likes and dislike differ somewhat from others (particularly in reference to my religious affiliation), those likes and dislikes would at least be tolerated. I have been proven wrong - repeatedly - by the under-40 set. That makes me sad...for them. But frankly, the change was not in how people handle my oddities. It was in how I handle the naysayers...which is to say, not at all.
They can kiss mine. I like what I like, and I do what I do for me and mine, and not for any other reason.
That said, I see similar oddities in my children...ostensibly because they're being raised by a - to put it kindly - rather eccentric woman (and incredibly tolerant man). Example: Thing 1 has recently developed a love of chess...and can now beat his parents.
At every game.
Example #2: Thing 2 has an obsession with all things macabre. I mentioned on facebook today a conversation I'd overheard between 1 & 2 in which they were "playing house" and Thing 2 explained that "Mommy died from drinking poison, so I buried her in the front yard under the tree so she would always haunt us." ................................ OH...KAAAAAAY. Someone is always dead, dying, injured, abused, neglected, unwanted, or freakish. REALLY. (Telling grandma one day about her imaginary mermaid: "All of her family DIED. Her mommy and daddy and all her brothers and sisters and grandmas and grandpas...they all DIED. So now she's all alone and she's so sad and no one can do anything to fix it." From grandma: "Could you adopt her?" Thing 2: "NO. She's never ever going to have a family and no one can ever make it better.")
Yup, them's my kids: wonderfully wacky and true to themselves and their own interests, even if chess is considered nerdy by other kids and adults everywhere stare horrified as they listen to morbid tales. I love them both.
But other people won't. Grade school is here, and kids are sooooooooooooo very mean. What happens when you're the top-performing kid in your grade - and younger than most! - and you have to fight not to roll your eyes when your church compadres can hardly read, but you can read the King James version of the scriptures with feeling and without missing a beat? Small boys in ties yank yours with incredible force and chuck your glasses across the room while you cry in a corner. (No, the latter part of this hasn't happened...yet.) What if you draw violent images of a woman with her chest ripped open, blood gushing from the wound, tears streaming from her eyes...and she's a sparkly pink-finned mermaid with a bejeweled pink crown? Elementary teachers recommend your child for psychological counseling. (Again, the latter portion of this scenario is a fabrication...so far.) And then it'll get worse. Then they'll be teens, and what if, like their MOTHER did, you decide to wear your own mother's hippie mumu from back in college that you're delighted to finally fit into, so you wear it to HIGH SCHOOL...in 1996? You get called every conceivable name, and people quite literally point and laugh as you walk by...and then someone throws a banana at you, sending additional people into peals of laughter as you scoop brown smush from your dress. (BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.) And why? Because I was different. I was misunderstood. And it SUCKED.
I'm still different. I'm still misunderstood. It still sucks...just not for me. Oh, I get a little sensitive about the whole thing from time to time, I confess, but the bottom line is I now realize that the banana-throwing type is missing out...on me, and on so many other "freaks" like me. That sucks.
But what sucks most of all is when I think about my kids. I love them more than life itself. I would give anything - ANYTHING - to spare them the pain that comes with being made fun of, with being gossiped about, with being judged and criticized and misunderstood. BUT I CAN'T. I won't be able to keep them from that (because we ALL go through it at some point); all I can do is help to build their self-esteem and self-confidence enough that they can withstand it. I don't want them to change. I love who they are, whether other people think that's "weird" or not. I love my Stephen Hawking and my Tim Burton. Period. And I want them to STAY Stephen Hawking and Tim Burton, so long as that's who they want to be. I just wish they could always be loved and understood.
And then I flipped the coin to the other side, and saw the strength they'd develop from managing others' lack of understanding and poor behavior while still sticking to their guns and being who they are and becoming who they most want to be. Rated my books a 1 star and said I was the worst, most juvenile, most incompetent author on the face of the planet...and ugly, to boot? Eh. My books are true to myself, and I'm proud of that...so I probably just wouldn't hang out with that rater. (That said, my thick skin has also offered me the fortitude to take that criticism, assess its real value, and incorporate required "upgrades" into my life and being while discarding the bunk.) It's an amazing quality to have developed, and so when other, unrelated crises crop up on my life, I have a tendency (okay, I vent, shoot me!) to roll with the punches and get on with things. It's not the end of the world. That's a pretty comfortable way to function when I see other people, whose lives have always been (for all outward appearances) a cakewalk, encounter major difficulties and fold like a sheet of origami paper. It's incredibly sad, and really, really painful to watch. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the toughest thing since Grandpa's jerky, and I'm also not trying to tempt fate by saying this, but the fact is you can throw a lot at me and I'll probably come back swingin'.
So long as I keep an eye on them, then, and can be certain to keep the communication lines open , I think that,
We have an eccentric family. I'm proud of it, because it means we're being true to ourselves, and that's the only way to truly progress: understanding who you are and developing that person to become who you want...every day of your life.
What does this have to do with my authoring? Please note: I AM NOT JUDE. I don't read my books and think of myself as Jude. She is NOT a Mary Sue. (Fanfic reference; please ignore my nerdiness.)
That said, we're told time and time again to write what we know. (Aren't we, Anne-with-an-E Shirley?) I guess I have. I know what it's like to be different, I know what it's like to learn - over time - to cope with that. I also know what it's like to let go and BE different. And after the junior high and high school (okay, and a bit of college) experience I HAD, I am DYING to present that journey to others suffering what I did, without being preachy (mostly), so maybe they can just skip to the end. (I do realize that you have to acquire that knowledge over time and through suffering, but maybe just a preview???)
Jude's story, therefore, is also a coming-of-age story: she's an eccentric, and is ridiculed for it. By the time the series ends, my goal is to have her be an eccentric...not who is loved for it, but who herself loves it.
And so where my book started as a cathartic thing, then changed to a teenage self-help story, it continues to morph...and is now an instruction manual for my kids.
Speaking of my kids: EMBRACE YOUR INNER NERD, THING 1. EMBRACE YOUR CRAZY MORBIDITY, THING 2. Should either of you decide to embrace something else tomorrow, so long as it's legal and safe, I'm right there with you. I love you both, and you amaze me every...single...day. As Polonius would say, "To Thine Own Self Be True," and I concur. Love, Mom