For much of my life I was proud of the fact that I was a little different. Chances are you know what I mean. Many of us feel like outsiders, a part but not really a part.
For a very long time I have been working on a book about being different. Years ago, when I started writing, I simultaneously began talking with people about feeling like a misfit toy, and people responded. What began to emerge was a collection of stories – stories about feeling like an outsider. I heard testimonies to lives spent in the margins. The more I talked to people the more I began to realize that most of us, a vast majority of us, feel like we are walking alone. Pretty girls, buff guys, super nerds, intellectuals, introverts, extroverts, soccer moms and college profs, everyone I talked to believed they were aliens in an alien land.
Some of us fit in better than others. Some of us are truly marginal personalities and stick out more. I no longer believe, though, that I have a corner on feeling dispossessed. For whatever reason, more and more of us are feeling alone in a sea of Facebook friends.
This feeling of “disconnection” pervades society. Week after week I listen to a parade of good people complain of feeling like no one truly understands them. They are often prone to fits of mild depression, of hyper-vigilence, or living with a mind that never shuts down. Many of us are secretly quite broken, in spite of our multiple attempts to believe in change just one more time. We are a generation of emotional children, trying to grow up. We had no good teachers and have had to make this up as we went along. We have created a new world, and one in which many of us are trying to find our way. Men learning how to feel, others discovering their sexuality, their identity, and their particular weirdness. Women finding their voice, couples waking up to the reality that they struggle to understand each other, a world connecting more by finding less intimacy. We have never been so social or so utterly alone. Many of us have few close friends. Strangers in a strange land.
I am still surprised by how many people understand what I am writing about on a personal level. And in some screwed up way that makes a tiny bit of difference, when I think about it. It’s more pleasant to be by ourself, together. Perhaps once we see someone else in a Guy Fawkes mask it begins to dawn on us that perhaps we are not completely alone.