Confession time: I was the weird kid. A chubby, awkward, bowl cut and unibrow-sporting social pariah who found herself sitting at the edge of the playground every day while her more athletic, well-adjusted peers bonded over games of kickball. I preferred having my nose in a book to playing tag, shirts with glittery embroidered horses to Abercrombie and Fitch baby tees, and watching How It’s Made to Hannah Montana. I would catch my classmates whispering to each other and looking back at me before bursting into giggles and walking away, and while I usually didn’t hear what they said, when I did, one word stuck out to me: “weird”. Sometimes being alone wasn’t so bad; I made friends with my teachers and formed good relationships with adults in my school and community. But, as I got older, things became far more complicated. When I was in middle school, I tried to change my appearance to gain points with the “cool girls” and get the attention of boys (hello, poorly done eyeliner and hair streaked with Sun-In) , but of course, my efforts were to no avail, and I was rejected yet again. I would be made fun of for little things I had never even thought about before, like where I parted my hair or the color of my nails. It seemed like I couldn't get any of it right. As the “weird girl”, I managed to get through most days without shedding a tear, but others were so emotionally taxing that I just wanted to give up. Now, a few years later, I’m so thankful I didn’t.

After one last attempt at fitting in during high school, I have come to the realization that I can’t continue to try to hide from who I really am. Even without the unfortunate haircut and a bit less baby fat, I’m still me. More importantly, I’m still weird. My socks never match. I laugh at the sad parts in movies. I listen to opera music when I’m alone, and I’ve spent more Friday nights than I can count watching crime documentaries on Netflix. There are a million reasons why I’m never going to fit into the crowd, but honestly, why would I want to? Why should we cram ourselves into an invisible box, packing away our unique interests, hobbies, and every little thing that makes us special just to appease our peers? In the end, we’re just hurting ourselves. The longer we cover up our “weirdness”, the more we lose touch with the authentic, indescribably beautiful parts of us that add so much color and diversity to our world.

I know how absurd this sounds, but it’s time to embrace every little thing that makes you “strange”. Put the teasing, loneliness, and bad days behind you. Take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and own the weird. Wear your favorite clothes, regardless of anyone’s opinions on whether or not they match, listen to the music that makes you feel warm and happy inside, and pursue the wildest of your dreams. Of course, you may run across a few people who don’t approve of who you are, and you might feel just like you’re right back where you started. There’s the possibility that they’ll call you weird, but don’t listen; it’s just their own insecurities talking. Just give them your biggest, brightest smile, wish them well, and go on your merry way. Your inner weird kid will be so, so proud of you.