Like a lot of people, I’ve been subjected to a lot of negativity over the years because I don’t fit neatly or conveniently into the mainstream mold. In school, I was a geek/dork/nerd/whatever name you give to kids who are in school to learn, not to be part of the popular crowd. I was smart, unashamed of it, and unwilling to dumb it down to be popular or get dates. Most of my hobbies aren’t mainstream. Board games, RPG’s, and comics? Yeah, might as well tattoo “Geek” on my forehead. I love sports and you’d think that would be mainstream, but when you’re a woman it’s just not. I’d rather read than watch TV and it’s amazing how negative some people can be when you can’t converse with them about celebrities or garbage TV shows. Really? That’s what matters to you to the point where you get angry if someone else doesn’t get it? Okaaayyyy, then.
I’ve certainly never fit into the corporate mold, either, opting instead to save every penny I could and become self-employed at age thirty-three. Strangely, the act of saving all that money resulted in even more negativity being tossed my way, since most people couldn’t conceive of anyone opting to live against the consumerist norm. “What do you mean you don’t have a smartphone and large cable package? Are you some sort of Luddite?” No, I just don’t want to blow money unless I have a good reason, thank you very much. I’d much rather buy my freedom from corporate slavery.
And being a writer certainly hasn’t stopped the negativity train. Plenty of people like to dump on what I write and how I write it. “Young adult? That’s not real writing; you should be writing literary fiction if you want to be taken seriously.” “You’re a writer? So, what, you sit around all day and drink?” “Freelance writing? That’s code for unemployed.” “You’re just playing while the rest of us work for a living.” Yep. All I do is sit around and drink all day and play at working. I certainly don’t handle my own billing and marketing, meet with clients, and meet deadlines like “real” workers do. Nope, I don’t do any of that.
You have to ask yourself this: Which do I want? To live the life that brings me joy and allows me to be the person that I want to be, or to live the life that keeps the haters silent? Usually the two are not the same, so you have to decide which life you want to claim on your deathbed.
In short, I tend to do my own thing but doing so seems to result in a lot of crap being slung my way. It used to bother me. A lot. I’d cry and then I’d try to do something to correct the perceived “problem.” I’d try to fit in more, to do things the way other people did them. I’d try to cultivate their interests, or act like other people did. The problem was, of course, it never worked. And why did it never work? Because I wasn’t being myself. I wasn’t doing the things that brought me joy, or which I was naturally good at. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. People tell you not to do that, but I think you have to reach a certain age or go through major life events before it clicks and you think, “Yeah, why the hell am I wasting my time trying to be like this when I don’t want to be?”
When I was a kid and would come home from school, upset that some d-bag classmate had made fun of me yet again, my mother would always tell me, “Just ignore them. They’re jealous of you, honey.” I never believed her because how could someone be jealous of a person who was so clearly a loser in the eyes of the world? It never made sense. But now I understand: It’s far easier to spew negativity and hate than it is to look at your own life and see that there’s a lot you’re not happy with, or which you could be doing better/differently. Far easier to grumble about the weirdos and freaks than to admit that you’d really rather be with them than in whatever mess you’re in.
At the root of most negativity is dissatisfaction. Why get upset about my grades to the point that you need to make fun of me? Is it because you know you’re not giving school your all and that maybe you’re hurting your future in some way? Why get all negative about my frugal lifestyle and my early “retirement?” Is it because you hate the fact that you’re making bad choices about money and living in debt? Why make fun of my hobbies or job? Is it because there’s something I’m doing that you secretly wish you were doing too, but aren’t because you’re afraid of the blowback from family or friends? Why do you care what anyone else does? Chances are it’s because something in another person’s life is poking at you, reminding you that you’re not doing everything you can or should to be happy or successful. You’re stifling some critical part of yourself and it’s easier to hate than it is to examine that lack and do something about it.
It’s far easier to spew negativity and hate than it is to look at your own life and see that there’s a lot you’re not happy with, or which you could be doing better/differently.
The haters will scoff at this point and say, “Yeah, right. Like I care what you do.” But if you’re making fun of someone else or spewing all sorts of negativity about their life, then you obviously do care. If you truly didn’t care, someone else’s choices wouldn’t even register on your radar. That’s my point. If you feel compelled to make fun of someone or hate on their lifestyle, then you need to ask yourself why. What’s driving you to engage in that behavior? Because, honestly, if you really don’t care and there’s nothing that you’re jealous of or reacting to, then you’re just being mean for the sake of being mean and that’s pretty much admitting that you’re just a horrible person.
Here’s the thing: We’re all only on this planet for a very short amount of time and that time can literally end today. Or tomorrow. You have to ask yourself this: Which do I want: To live the life that brings me joy and allows me to be the person that I want to be, or to live the life that keeps the haters silent? Usually the two are not the same, so you have to decide which life you want to claim on your deathbed. Personally, I’ve finally decided to claim pure joy instead of trying to manufacture some half-life that will appease everyone but me.
I feel fortunate to have reached the point in my life where negativity pretty much bounces off of me. I’m fully aware that it’s not about me at all, but about the other person and something that’s missing in their own life. I know that they’ve chosen to focus on me, the easier target, than to do the harder work of looking inside themselves and addressing whatever is causing them to be unhappy. That’s not my fault or my problem. My only regret is that I didn’t get it when I was younger. I should have believed my mother. It would have saved me a lot of wasted time and energy.
(Photo courtesy of johnhain)