From a very young age, I knew I didn’t quite fit in with the rest of my family. I was a weird little kid with an overactive imagination. My family was supportive, always coming to my school performances and dance recitals. Even now, they read my work and talk about how proud they are of me. But I don’t think they can really relate to me when it comes to my creative pursuits.
I have always been “the dork” of the family. I’d much rather surround myself with a million books than just about anything else. As a child, my idea of fun was playing library. Even though I had plenty of toys, my most prized possessions were my shelves of Baby-Sitter’s Club books.
My cousin — who was around my age — thought I was a total oddball. Who would rather read than play in Barbie’s RV? Well, I would. Obviously. As my cousin and I played together, I must have suggested playing library (total oddball move), or maybe I just asked her casually about her reading habits. She told me she didn’t like to read. You would think she told me that she liked to kill puppies for fun. I was aghast. We spent the rest of our time together playing, but once she left, I told my dad that was our last playdate. EVER.
“She doesn’t like to read!” I exclaimed, horrified at the thought.
During family functions, you could always find me off somewhere on my own. It’s not that I don’t like being around my family, but I was always working on something different than everyone else. I’d find any hidden corner where I could put on my portable CD player and have some space to myself. Sometimes people would find me there reading a book. Most of the time, they’d find me scribbling furiously in a notebook. Or pulling a stack of looseleaf paper out of a folder, re-reading my work.
If I was reading a book, I’d excitedly tell them about the plot. If I was talking about my writing, I was more cagey, because hello, how do you tell your brother-in-law that you’re writing a story where Justin Timberlake falls in love with you? As I would talk, though, I could see the vacant stares of either a lack of understanding or disinterest.
That’s when I began to realize I was the family oddball. No one else in my family got excited about the same things I did. Their normal was never my normal. If I go to one of their houses, I wouldn’t see piles of books everywhere. My normal looks like chaos, books in piles literally everywhere. They never have a million pens laying around, color coordinated to the million notebooks laying around.
And you know what? My family still doesn’t quite understand me. Even now as an adult, I’m still the family oddball. Because I haven’t really changed much as I’ve gotten older. I still enjoy the same things, reading a million books and now I’ve turned that love of writing into a career.
I’m the only person in my family who works in a creative field. One of brothers works for the government. A few of my family members work in education. Even my parents, who have backgrounds in creative fields, still don’t quite understand what I do. When I tell them I just read a book where the son of the first female president falls in love with the prince of England, they’re confused. Or, if they ask me what my novel is about and I say a teenage pop star and a bunch of boy bands, they try to be enthusiastic but I can tell they are really thinking, huh.
But I’ll give my family credit, they always encouraging of my interests and enthusiasm. I’m lucky that my family tries to at least pretend to understand all the things that make me the family oddball. It would be incredibly easy for them all to totally ignore me or my interests. Thankfully, they don’t. Sure, they don’t get me, like, at all. But they’re wholeheartedly embracing all of the things that make me who I am. Sometimes that’s the basic bitch who likes to talk about the social media quiz she took. Most of the time I’m the woman who will rant about why you should always read the book before you see the movie. And sometimes you can still find me in a corner typing furiously instead of scribbling my story ideas.
That’s the thing about being the oddball in the family. If your family really loves you, like mine does, they will indulge you in your quirkiness. Even if they have no idea what you’re talking about, they’ll smile and nod along. Because they know that whatever you’re doing means a lot to you. But, being the family oddball doesn’t feel as isolating as it did when I was a kid. Probably because I’m more secure now.
Thankfully, I don’t mind doing things on my own. I can find ways outside of my family to do all of the stuff that makes me the oddball in the first place. When my family doesn’t understand me, I have plenty of friends I can turn to who 100% get what I’m talking about. My friends are usually the oddball in their family too, so we’ve bonded over the fact that no one really gets us.
For me, being the family oddball is something I wear like a badge of honor. Sure, it makes me stand out from everyone else. But I was never meant to blend in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace who I am — the book reading nerd who still loves to sing showtunes. My family knows who I am, and they still want to be around me. So I call it a win.