Celebrating Diversity

graduationOver the past few weeks, we’ve had a number of milestones in our family. My daughter was promoted from eighth grade and my son graduated high school. It has been a whirlwind of caps and gowns and pomps and circumstances! Many proud mama moments.

Today I have my own milestone – my birthday. Other than Christmas, my birthday is my favorite day of the year. I’ve no idea why – but I’ve always felt this way. Maybe it’s because it precedes a fun holiday weekend. Maybe it’s because it occurs during my favorite season. Either way, I am like a preschooler when it comes to celebrating my special day.

I didn’t always feel ‘special’. In fact, growing up, I mostly felt I was weird. So much so, that I told my mom I thought I was adopted. With five brothers and sisters, clearly there was no need (or time!) for adoption. My mom didn’t recognize that my comment was really not about adoption but rather about feeling disconnected and different from my family.

Not only did I look different than my siblings, we had nothing in common.

My oldest brother was very smart and accomplished. I was sort of a dork. My oldest sister was pretty and creative. With braces, glasses and face full of acne, I was far from pretty. My other brother and sister were risk-takers, pulling pranks all the time and getting in trouble. I was nervous Nelly. My younger sister, well she was the baby and could do no wrong. Nothing in common there either.

You can see why I felt like I lived on the island of misfit toys. I was surrounded by smart, pretty, creative, risk-takers – none of those labels fit me as a young child or even a young adult for that matter.

But as braces were removed, glasses were replaced with contact lenses, and a ton of pills and creams cleared up my complexion, I began to see a transformation. Not into the beauty I saw in my sisters, but maybe my own sort of beauty. With grades of mostly A’s in high school through graduate school, I began to see that maybe I was pretty smart. Considering some of the craziness I did in college and my early adult years, maybe I wasn’t so risk-averse. Maybe I wasn’t so different. Maybe I was just a late bloomer.

While things have ‘evened out’ with regards to my former self-evaluation, I still can’t shake the ‘misfit’ moniker. Most days, I do feel like a fish out of water. I’m not like other people at my job. I’m a very different parent than most. I’m into a slew of things many people would roll their eyes at. Why is that? Why, after all these years, am I still feeling like the odd-girl out?

My horoscope for today said that it’s an “all or nothing year” and “the sooner I make important decisions, the more I will accomplish.” Talk about pressure! All or nothing year? Yikes!


The funny thing is – I hope it is an all or nothing year. I hope I do make a big decision that sets me on the path for which I’m intended. ‘Cuz between you and me, I think I’m supposed to be more than what I am today. I think I’m supposed to live bigger and bolder. I think I’m missing my boat. Even worse, I think I’m at the airport, when I should be standing on the dock!

I’m thinking it’s time to get down to business, don’t you? If I truly am a mis-fit then I’ll just be the best dang misfit there is. If I’m doing things differently than most, then I’ll just do them the best that I can. Most of the big accomplishments in my life have occurred because I colored outside the lines. So I’ll just grab my trusty Crayola’s and color away.

As my son and daughter prepare for the next chapters in their lives, maybe their mom will too. Maybe we will all take our baby steps together towards the might ships we were destined to board, sailing on towards bright futures.

As I prepare to celebrate my special day, I will embrace my misfit-ness and know that I was created for great things and to have a great life. I will be grateful for my blessings including the things that make me different. I will take steps to make this “all or nothing” year the best it can be.

I may not be there yet, but I’m on my way.

Jen’s Gem: Celebrate all that’s different about you and teach your children to do the same.

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