Why being “different” is exhausting
Today I went to watch ‘Anomalisa’ with two of my friends. It’s a neat film directed by Charlie Kaufman about isolation; i.e. a man tired of being lonely, while concurrently sick of human interaction. I really enjoyed the film because I related to the protagonist’s somewhat misanthropy (though I’m definitely more nuanced) and Lisa (the protagonist’s love interest and foil)’s insecurity and tendency to apologise. Also, the film’s central theme (at least from what I thought it to be) about yearning for human connection whilst having the strong desire to be alone simultaneously, has articulated what I’ve been feeling these days.
Before I talk about why this film made my think of this post’s title, I’ll like to clarify something. I’m not trying to be a humblebrag whereby I’m pretending to be humble about being a “special snowflake”. I know us Millennials get a lot of flak for being self-entitled and believing that we deserve special treatment. Maybe I’m being self-indulgent, but when I say I’m different, more often than not its a burden than being deliberately self-effacing.
Back to why its tiring. I always find myself fumbling for words because my thoughts go in many directions. I can’t bring myself to give a clear-cut answer because my opinions are usually not binary. There are so many reasons to explain a social phenomenon depending on the context, the social actor, the time period, the government structure etc. I realise now that I’m blurring the lines between being “different” and just being a run-of-the-mill “critical-thinker”. However I don’t have the self-assuredness to confidently express myself. There’s always an underlying worry that my opinions will be dismissed because its not the “norm”. And its a terrible habit because when someone else says something more aligned with the “norm” (do you know what I mean?), I’ll feel a sense of relieved; as though an escape, so that my wayward opinion can die out quickly.
Another reason why its tiring: it’s alienating to be different. Popular culture seems to fetishise the “weird”. I believe they have always been an object of fascination / derision (harking back to the “circus freaks” of the past); but now their antics can have the added dimension of being strangely endearing as well. Take for example Moss from the IT Crowd. Or Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Now — they aren’t just weirdos because they happen to be geniuses too; and eccentricity and genius have often be associated concomitantly. What about regular weirdos like myself? A strange comment is often met with awkward silence. And I’m still aware of decorum in that people are expected to say certain things or respond in a certain mannerism. But that’s the thing. I know my comment veers away from this “social contract” the community tacitly has with one another, but it is precisely what I want to break away from. Introspection has led me to a few fuzzy answer to why I might be tempted to act in this counter-intuitive manner. 1. There’s this research method (I couldn’t find it / remember it) whereby researchers deliberately act in opposing methods to force the research participants to exhibit conventional behaviour. I think part of me wants to find out whether a particular behaviour is entrenched or not. 2. Maybe I use shock value to mislead people into thinking that I’m interesting.
Anyway I’m at this stage in my life where I’m still figuring out. I’m not sure if this sort of contemplation is a luxury that only carefree (in the loose sense that I’ve no money or “big” problems) students like myself have, or that I’ll always be ruminating. Is it an exciting part of my life? Doesn’t feel like it. But it does feel like a necessary part of self-development, even though it sure is a pain in the arse at times.