Embracing Differences

The question at church a few weeks ago: How do you want to be remembered?

My answer? I want to be remembered as different.

I am not your average 25 year old. I have witnessed things in my life that often makes it difficult for me to relate to my peer group. I don’t like talking about nail polish colors, I can’t tell you who Ryan Guzman or Chris Hemsworth is (and the only reason I know who Dave Franco is is due to Conan O’Brien’s Tinder skit). I spent a majority of my summer hanging out with 75 year olds. I always travel down the unbeaten path. Why would I have one college major when I could have three? Why would I drive an automatic when it’s really fun to see how long I can coast in neutral with my stick shift? Why would I teach with the standard vocab-novel-multiple choice test approach when I can dabble into messy and exciting themes of morality and justice and argumentation?

But, then again, no one ever got anywhere being ‘normal’.

I learned last week that apparently there IS such thing as ‘disability studies’. The focus of disability studies is to promote the different; that, our cultural tendencies are to stifle, suppress, and subordinate those who are ‘different’, whether that be a physical, mental, or emotional disability. Because, to us, those who are ‘different’ are a threat to our self identity; it’s much safer to be part of the herd of sheep than to stand out. Because, when you stand out, you make yourself open for public scrutiny.

But, as disability studies suggests, we should embrace those who are ‘different’, because they offer us unique insights and perspectives of the world that we would not otherwise hold.

Tito Mukhopadhyay, a 26 year old non-verbal autistic, writes about his experiences with the world. In his writing, he is able to explain why he does the things he does; because he sees ‘self’ as part of the world, he flaps his hands to help him delineate those boundaries. While we may perceive those behaviors as ‘out of control’ and ‘crazy’, Tito is able to give a completely logical and valid explanation and suddenly, he doesn’t seem so ‘different’.

Last night, I watched ‘The Imitation Game’, which is about Alan Turing, the brains behind the first computer and breaking the infamous Nazi Enigma code. The movie flashed between the bullying he endured in both his childhood and adulthood; it was evident from the beginning that Turing was ‘different’. But yet, look at what ‘different’ brought us: cryptology, computers, and an end to the war.

We coined a phrase on my dance team this year: “We accept all kinds”. We accept those who are goofy and awkward, those who like heavy metal music, those who like building model railroads, those who want to dye their hair purple. Why should we discriminate against other people when it’s really the differences that make our world entertaining and not boring to live in.

I think we should all embrace our differences.

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