When I was 16-years-old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along. – Graham Moore, Acceptance Speech for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars 2015
I am ten years older than the target age demographic for Graham Moore’s speech but, I’m gonna take his words to heart anyway and hope to be his “the next person who comes along.” Moore has many fascinating views, of which I got my first taste at this Writers’ Roundtable he did here. For his Oscars acceptance speech, I was overwhelmingly touched by what he said because it was so simple, so precise, so accurate and so badly needed. It is a rarity, to use such a platform that predominantly celebrates the best, the richest and the most opportune people in the arts in an expectantly lavish manner. You go for TED Talks if you want to feel better about yourself, not the glamorous Oscars. And yet, precisely because this is a place where weirdness is acceptable as long as you can make something remarkable out of it, it is the perfect place to acknowledge that staying weird may not be so bad after all.
I am starting to notice that being weird is becoming more normative these days. Perfectly feminine women will say something like, “Oh, I’m such a tomboy. I never have time for a facial!” Uh, that is not what being a tomboy entails. Other oddities, like having “crazy” hair or, in general, calling yourself crazy is something that is cool to do. That shows you’re so humble or fun or unique, or whatever it really is supposed to show. But, the world is nothing like that when you are 16. When, more than ever before or since, you desperately want to fit in, to blend in the crowd instead of being the weird one. When, somehow, everybody else got the memo for being normal and you didn’t. You realise later that nearly everyone was just as insecure but, the cycle continues nevertheless.
I was often called mad or eccentric or odd, and I thought it would have worn off by now. But, nope, the prophesy is true, and I’m still weird. This time, I missed out on the workshop titled How to be An Adult. You see, the idea of being weird is pretty simple. You’re in a community, and everyone is in some sort of operation mode to bring value to that community. Even if your job is to be the privileged one who enjoys life’s comforts, you are a valuable entity of that community, a mascot signalling all is well, if commercialism is on your community’s agenda. When you’re weird, you are, quite simply, not very good or interested in what you’ve been given to do. I was the weird one simply because I was interested in the arts. I received little to no formal training in the traditional art forms, whose history I won’t bore you with, especially because my interests bore no relation to them. But, even if there was a place for the one who was trained in traditional art forms, there was no space to explore, let alone pursue as an occupation, anything else. Science and Technology was much more realisable, much more valued, and as India has gone on to prove, something she is capable of doing very well.
Which I can be happy about, but this isn’t merely a question of occupation. When we think of a person’s living we view it in a limiting fashion – a job, something that puts food on the table and a few other things. But, a living is much more than that or, actually, exactly what it says it is. It is who you are and what you do with your time and yourself. In my case, quite obviously, writing doesn’t constitute “living”. It constitutes “hobby” or “talent” ( whatever that means ) but, not something you really do.
Of course, now I am too tired of protesting, to the point where I don’t give a **** anymore. What Moore said only reconciles me further to what I had already suspected. I am weird, I get it. I am different, but not in the cool way. I genuinely have crazy hair, which I am far from crazy about. I only wish there was somebody, somewhere who would have reached out and said to me what Moore says when I was sixteen. I wouldn’t have been driving myself insane in trying to make it in the Sciences then. I may have seen how futile all that effort was, because I am still weird ten years later, still trying to do things that are not seen as valuable. And maybe, being this stubbornly or helplessly weird will matter someday.