“Every utopia – let’s just stick with the literary ones – faces the same problem:
What do you do with the people who don’t fit in?” Margaret Atwood
It’s true that the people who don’t fit in – the misfits – are often perceived as “different” by others. But sometimes they’re also the ones who feel that way about themselves.
When it comes to adolescents, quite a few don’t fit in (either when compared to the norm by others or as a result of self-perception and how they feel).
Dystopian novels and television shows and movies are especially popular these days.
Last weekend I saw Divergent with my niece and I will be reading the books soon. I catch Revolution each week with my dad. And I’ve enjoyed reading the Hunger Games and Maze Runner books. Back when I first discovered my love of reading, as a twenty-six-year old, I also discovered Brave New World and Anthem and Fahrenheit 451 and Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Clockwork Orange and The Giver.
One of the concepts often found in these stories is that even in those future worlds that are supposed to be “perfect,” life is anything but perfect.
In these stories, characters sometimes question bringing a child into the world. In real life, I have heard people say that very thing.
Maybe it’s from spending my childhood so close to death, but I find life worth living. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a close family and great friends over the years.
I mention all that because I was talking with someone close to me the other day who alluded to the subject of reincarnation. I asked: if YOU were able to come back as ANYONE or ANYTHING, who or what would you be?
After pondering briefly, the response was this: “I’m not sure I’d come back.”
It was a reply I hadn’t even considered. One that struck me as profoundly sad. After that conversation, I took some time to reflect on how I felt as a teenager.
As much as I’ve always enjoyed learning, I abhorred school. But I loved playing sports, so it seemed like a fair enough trade (though I would have preferred seven hours of basketball and two hours of classes).
I didn’t like the hypocrisy and the insincerity I was beginning to recognize everywhere, but that’s just one of the consequences of cognizance, of understanding, of realizing that things aren’t always the way they should be. Idealism is one of those things we tend to shed as we age, as if it were a second skin, one we’re born with, the skin of innocence. Hopefully, though, some of that optimism and hope remains in the newer layers of skin as we grow older. Hopefully it doesn’t all get shed.
I will admit, however, the only person I have ever truly hated is myself. I didn’t consciously think about it. That’s just the way it was . . . once upon a time.
Now . . . today . . . adult me would choose to come back . . . as ME.
Of course, it took me a lifetime to get to that point. And I would do some things differently, that’s for sure, but I’d welcome a do over, another chance to live this life.
But even younger me, even teen me with my growing awareness of the inequities and the struggles and the sometime horrors of the world would have chosen to come back. As someone. As something. Just probably not as me.
I can relate to the inescapability of being oneself and the adolescent desire (perhaps even need), at times, to be someone, anyone else.
I think that’s one of the reasons I love writing. The ability the writer has to become someone else for a time.
I’m not sure who teenage me would have wanted to be.
I haven’t read the Divergent books yet, though I’ve heard good things. I enjoyed the movie. And I especially enjoyed watching it with my niece, both of us claiming afterwards that we’re divergent. That’s the sort of story I would have been drawn to as a teen. The sort of people I would have wanted to be. The sort of person I think I’ve always tried to be without ever really thinking about it much until now.
And that’s another of the reasons I love to write.
Being able to create characters who overcome, who inspire, who are the sort of people others might want to come back as in another life. Because, hopefully, those characters inspire some readers to be that sort of person in this life, too.