I’m sure most of us have come to notice that the common mental struggle for almost everybody is embracing who you are and staying true to that – even if people don’t accept you. I feel that everyone is able to relate to this to a certain extent and whilst it’s so common, it’s also not a subject people are proud to share and that’s why most of us continue to feel alone in this. So I’m just going to come out and say it – I’m an oddball, have always been and always will be. Now, how did I deal with that in high school and put that fact to good use?
I did not always speak English, I grew up in Thailand and Thai has always been my first language. But one summer, my parents made a huge decision and they enrolled me into an international school here in Bangkok. At eight (Year 5) I stumbled into a brand new school, with brand new kids in class and brand new teachers. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but consider this: my new school only had 10% Thai kids in the entire school (making me one of the two Thai kids in my class, and I didn’t know how to speak English), the kids in my class already have their tight knit group of friends, and to make matters even more difficult for me, I couldn’t go to the teachers to ask for anything as I couldn’t speak English to them either. This for me, (strangely enough because I didn’t have to leave Thailand to experience this) was my first ever experience of culture shock. Till then, I only listened to Thai music, I watched on Thai soaps and I knew of only Thai celebrities. I had nothing to relate to the other girls in class and I for sure, didn’t know who ‘Britney Spears’ was when a group of girls were practicing a dance act for the upcoming talent show.
I spent the next two excruciating years (the entire Year 5 and Year 6) struggling to learn English and desperate to make friends – which proved impossible as the kids were unforgiving of my poor English and were more interested in making fun of the ‘funny’ things I would say. I have come to learn that these years have greatly shaped who I am today (in both positive and negative ways).
Negatively: From that point forward, I became much more anxious to be around big groups of people and it made me withdrawn into my own activities and thoughts.
Positively: It taught me to fill my time with productivity and self-betterment.
The rest of high school was pretty much the same, although I spoke fluent English by this point. I always thought that being able to speak English would make all my problems of fitting in go away, but it really didn’t and nothing much changed. I knew all about the western culture now, the fashion that was ‘in’, the kinds of music that was ‘trendy’ and the kinds of Hollywood movies people liked. But I had developed my own ‘different’ taste to the rest of the people, so I of course, I remained the oddball that didn’t quite fit in anywhere. I do have to say though, that people stopped bullying me and they were now civil, but it never really moved pass just them being ‘indifferent’ towards me as although I did understand the western popular culture, my thoughts towards it was that I didn’t like it. I wore my own combination of ‘weird’ clothes and my ‘weird’ platform shoes, I didn’t dig Blink 182 but I loved Deep Purple and Queen, I hated the ‘Scary Movies’ parody series and would rather watch ‘The Road To Perdition’ instead.
Because I had about 5 friends in all, I had a lot of spare time and I decided that by the time I left high school that I would have achieved positive things for myself. I taught myself how to play the guitar and the drums, and after a year, I played at all of the school shows and also had out of school gigs at different events. I taught myself to use Final Cut Pro (a video editing program) and made my own school movies to raise money for different charities. I took up badminton (again, weird and different) trained 3 hours a day, 6 days a week – and after one year I competed badminton within South East Asia regions and won a gold medal.
Now. I’m not saying any of this to brag, but to say that – it doesn’t matter if people don’t appreciate you and see your worth. The only thing that matters is how you see yourself and what you do with your own time. Don’t spend forever trying to seek approval of other people, because at the end of the day, that’s all they are – they’re other people, they’re strangers to you. If you feel like you need to spend all of your efforts trying to impress anyone, then right off the bat, know that they’re not worth it if you need to chase after them for friendship. Spend your time wisely, do what you love (no matter how ‘weird’ or different it is because that’s what makes you unique!) and you’ll naturally make friends with people who truly appreciate your quirkiness and embrace your difference. Don’t be afraid to be different. All the time that you will spend learning the ‘social norms’ can be better spent to develop your own likes and dislikes. Don’t let your individuality die with trying to conform with society that seems to push you away.
The 5 friends I had in high school are still my 5 best friends today. During university, I gained 2 more best friends during my 4 years in London. And now in my adult life, I’ve gained 2 more best friends that I can be completely myself with and be as ‘weird’ as I want to be! And last but not least, my hubby Tom accepts me completely for who I am and if anything, he loves it that I do all these different things that I used to be called ‘weird’ for doing.
THESE – are the kind of people you want in your life! So guys, BE the oddball that you are! You deserve to be your weird self because it’s amazing ❤
Shaggy Jacket: Nasty Gal
Crop Top: Brandy Melville
Photography by Tom Shigeru Stannard (@tomshigeru)