I realised one thing last night: I’m more comfortable to be myself around those who are different from me than I am with those with very similar interests.
Ever since I left the British school system, I’ve felt very lonely, constantly wishing I had more friends with similar interests. It wasn’t hard for me to make friends but it was hard to find someone who either didn’t laugh at my interests or who simply couldn’t share the same passion. For instance, I have always loved listening to opera and classical music, which is probably not too unusual now for a 20-something year old but laughable for an 11-year-old.
Classmate: “Who’s your favourite singer?”
Me: “Sarah Brightman.”
“Who?” or “She’s fat!” would be the typical answers from my peers. It certainly didn’t help that I wasn’t allowed to listen to pop music. As I was already very shy with low self-esteem, I desperately tried to fit in with my peers (in the American school and subsequently, in the Canadian school) just so I wouldn’t be looked down at. Six years in the American school system made me believe that I was an oddball. Save for one friend who shared some similar interests, I had no one else to talk to. Every time I watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I could understand how Belle felt in the little provincial town: “There’s no one I can really talk to.”
I kept hoping that one day, I would find people similar to me and we could enjoy our afternoon teas, twirl in dresses, and be besties forever.
When I went to university, I was delighted to meet so many more people, all of whom were either very friendly or shared at least one interest with me. Maybe I met the most wonderful people at Queen’s (including the Castle) and at the University of Heidelberg, but I started to feel more accepted for who I am. I met more people who enjoyed afternoon teas. I met two young women studying to become opera singers. I befriended quite a few lovely women in my ballet classes. In the past year, I’ve met people who knew their royal history and were passionate about history in general. It was such a relief knowing I am not the only one with peculiar interests. At the same time, despite having found people with similar interests, they were also quite different from me sometimes in ways I could not relate. For example, I’m not interested in cars, cooking, or bands.
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to ‘meet’ more people who liked just about everything I did. Yet it wasn’t long before I realised that I started feeling very uncomfortable on Twitter. Sometimes, it was enough for me to want to avoid checking Twitter simply because I felt that I would be judged indirectly. It was the same feeling I used to have when I was in the American School.
So it was a surprising revelation when it struck me that I now prefer those who don’t necessarily share all my interests (even one or ‘nothing’ in common). For with them, I am accepted as a unique person – just as we all are – and I can be myself. Furthermore, I constantly learn and try something new. At the end of the day, it’s not all about interests but who we are.