Times I’ve Felt Like An Outsider

November 15, 2013

In the hotel room

“You know the worst part of traveling? And I don’t talk about this much. Maybe never. But, God knows, it’s always in my mind. The worst part is when you run into people with closed-minds, or minds that only open for the familiar, which is basically the same thing.”
– Loco in Yokohama, Baye McNeil

Part of the reason I travel is to understand why people think the way they do. What goes into someone who’s conservative by nature? Liberal? Income, upbringing…? How much they’ve traveled? As I see it now, a major factor is how often one feels like an outsider:

– Is that person going to conform to what the group wants? Is it even possible?
– Will he or she stick to his guns and fight his way to the top?
– Will he or she be defeated in the face of such overwhelming numbers?
– How do you feel when you’re suddenly the minority, or the only one at all?

I’m in 7th grade. I get invited to a party and sleepover at a friend’s house. They ask me if I’ve ever seen a woman’s breast. I shy away from the answer, but they don’t talk to me the same way again. Maybe they think I’m gay. Maybe I’m just a weakling. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel like I’m one of them.

I’m on the bus heading to my school’s cross country meet. American Pie comes on the radio, and others start singing along. I spent all of my life to this point in a bubble, studying and playing Nintendo. I assume music is something that must be required to be learned. I lack the social nuances to make small talk, to even understand why people like things of which I have no understanding.

I’m in summer camp, almost an Eagle Scout. One of the new staffers suggests everyone pitch in a racist joke to start this new session. I have to walk away in shame, disgust. I knew I was different.

I’m in high school, crashing a house party of one of the popular kids for the first time. Everyone is drinking, smoking pot, and talking about things I just didn’t understand. I’m not there yet.

I’m in Japan, and I feel as though my every move is scrutinized. I don’t fit in, no matter how hard I try. I’m enjoying it at first… makes me feel special. But after so many whispers, so many furtive glances, so many microaggressions, it just starts to take a toll. I will never belong.

I’m in Thailand, catching up with my volunteer coordinator. One of his recruits, a bro by any measure, openly insults me about my age, then tries to pass it off as nothing. I am older than most of the expats here. This chapter in my life is over. I can’t be a fresh graduate only looking for cheap booze and easy sex.

I’m halfway across the world, talking to my parents on Skype. The Zimmerman verdict gets brought up. My mother mentions how ridiculous the whole affair is, that he should never have been brought to trial. I just listen in silence. They don’t know what it’s like to be seen a certain way just for being who you are. They don’t know what it’s like to be outsiders. Being surrounded by only the familiar for thirty years can have that effect. Their ignorance and racism always tear my soul. It’s hard when you can’t relate to the majority of your family.

Every one of these situations has helped form the basis of who I am, encouraged me to see beyond myself. I’m far from perfect, and, as a human being, probably still have a lot of room to develop. However, I call upon these events to form my current perspective. What are your moments?

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