Living Outside

I can’t imagine being who I am and not being an outsider.

My experience is of a world seen from the margins.   I have always been on the edge, looking for patterns, trying to understand.

Living life up close was always problematic for me.  I just didn’t have the levels of latent inhibition that allowed emotional bumps and bangs to slough off.  I knew from a very early age that only context could save me.

For people who want to be insiders, who crave being insiders, who need to be insiders, the ideas that anyone would resist being an insider is just beyond comprehension.   Doesn’t everyone want to be at the centre, be part of the action, be an insider?

I learned to be an outsider very early.  When I finally got in social spaces, I saw the cost of being an insider, the price of being one of the gang.  You had to want it, want to assimilate.

I needed to stand alone because I knew what I was going home to.   As the lovely Kiki DuRane (an outsider if ever there was one) reminds us, “Don’t get too comfortable!”   When we get too comfortable, we let down our guard, and that means losing ourselves because you are subject to the demands and hurts that most people inside don’t feel anymore.

Outsiders know that we need defenses, need some space between us and the crowd.  We need our isolation, be that physical, mental or emotional.   That isolation protects us, keeps us safe, and cherishes what we hold most dear, our hard won identity.

Insiders find comfort in fitting, being one of the crowd.  Outsiders find comfort in standing a bit apart, in being with ourselves.

The primary duality for humans is wild/tame.   How much do we want to be tame, to assimilate, be connected to others, follow the rules, be valued for how we meld and how much do we want to be wild, to claim individuality, to be bold and rugged, engaging the world on our own terms and in our own way?

No human is one or the other, of course.   We all need both community and creativity, both support and separation.

No insider wants to just be erased, denied having their own unique identity, and no outsider wants to just be totally isolated, not having the connection they need with other people.  Outsider/Insider isn’t a binary, either/or thing, rather it is a fluid duality, one we find balance in everyday, trying to make the right blend.

I can’t imagine being who I am and not being an outsider.

My biggest challenge, though, is how hard it is to explain that need to insiders.  While they value what I can offer when I climb inside their world, when I come inside with them, it is hard for them to get their head around why seeing the world as an outsider has benefits.

It is our uniqueness that offers the most powerful gifts we can share with the world.   In a franchise based world where compliance with operating rules is valued, this is hard to explain.   Why would we want someone who doesn’t fit what we expect?

Through the years, I have always offered a different view.  I take people on little journeys of perspective, allowing them to see what is so familiar to them that they have created a rut in a new and powerful way.   This is how I break loops, not by trying to impose some standard but by letting people see past their habits to solutions that are already inside of them.

Yet, if all your life you have dreamed of being an insider, why the hell would you want to listen to an outsider?   Shouldn’t you be looking for people who you want to be, who you want to be friends with, who already model your dreams?

We outsiders don’t try and model our dreams, working to fit ourselves to expectations.   Instead, we remodel our dreams, working to fit our expectations to what is.

If you want to be new, innovative, creative, out of the box, groundbreaking, and powerful, following the old rules will never get you there.  You need to break the rules and breaking the rules means harnessing your own outsider power.

The problem I have, though, is that I need some insider power.  I need connection.

Still, I can’t imagine being who I am and not being an outsider.

When I go to insiders to talk about my struggles, they just can’t imagine why I hold on so tightly to my outsider identity.  They like being one of the gang, they hold onto that identity, and I am smart, so why can’t I do the same thing?

To be who I am, with my trans heart, my big brain, my Aspergers by training, and all the rest and to be an insider has always felt like a way to be erased and diminished.   I don’t speak for letting people become normative, in the mainstream, rather I speak for embracing the normal range of humanity, a big bell curve where no one is precisely in the middle.

I can’t imagine being who I am and not being an outsider.

But  I can’t imagine being an outsider giving me all I need.   And I can’t imagine how to offer my outsider gifts to insiders who have no idea that they need them, nor what they cost to gain.

We outsiders, you see, aren’t just failed insiders.

Many of us just can’t imagine being who we are and not being an outsider.


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