“I love to be around people who retain a sense of childlike quality,” said Bryan Cranston when he appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning Show. His statement normalized my need to embrace laughter and opportunities to break from the heaviness of life to engage in a joke or a giggle. Past experiences that made me feel abnormal or weird for choosing not to take life so seriously all of the time took center stage in my mind. I began to rethink the what it meant to be “normal” since I have spent much of my life feeling something other than “normal.”
Often I speak about feeling like I have lived much of my life as a square being forced into a round hole. In my youth, I didn’t see how many people probably felt like me. As I grew older, I learned that life can truly resemble The Game of “Perfection.” Folks scramble around trying to fit into one space or another listening to the loud clicks as the clock winds down. There is no time for distraction in the game of perfection, but in life we tend to forget that we have only one lifetime to accomplish the mission for which we were placed on the earth. The tick tock of the clock fades into the background as we spend the time assessing and reasoning with ourselves to figure why we don’t fit into the “normal” crowd.
What did it mean when people said I didn’t “fit in” with their group? What was it that made me not “fit in” even when I seemed to be perfectly matched for the category description? Why did I regularly find myself a perfect outlier? How was it that those who excluded me spoke as if they knew me better than those I called friend? My friend circle has always been relatively small which made the fact that most of the comments about me came from people with whom I spent little time. In the last few years, I also noticed that people who seek to exclude me had difficulty accepting their exclusionary practices. Rather than own their decisions they justified their actions to recruit support from others by saying things like, “She’s not as polished as us,” “She talks too much,” “She’s too loud,” “She doesn’t know her place,” or “She’s too silly.” Comments like these taught me to work hard at blending into the fixtures or fading into the dark space behind my tinted lenses. Ironically, my efforts were not met with any acknowledgment of behavioral changes, but rather with more judgement. I heard new descriptive words and phrases like “rude,” “standoffish” (if that is even a word) and “an angry black woman.” I shook my head a lot and probably rolled my eyes too as I came to realize that much of my outlier experiences had little to do with me not being “normal,” but more about me literally not having the capacity to live my life painting inside of the lines with the same palette every moment of my life.
I traveled many figurative miles before I realized that human boundaries kept me in a cyclical path that could never fuel my spirit or encourage my soul. Instead of engaging in spirited, passionate work of a visionary, we get distracted trying to figure out why other people do the things they do. I reflected on something I have heard coaches say during interviews: “We should be competitive in this game” or “On paper, we should win this game.” The disclaimer, “on paper,” considered the intangible qualities that created the identities of the teams preparing for the competition. Humans forget about the intangible qualities that make us uniquely who we are equipped for particular missions in a lifetime. Because they forget, they design spaces to share with their perfectly shaped peers. Their circle owns the same neutral color palette representative of their monotonous, structured lives. It took a while for me to realize that some association with people who painted inside the lines was necessary for me, but that life could never be my “normal.” I have color palettes in my head with offering a plethora of color choices in my head. Mentally, I am constantly dancing outside the lines painting with a wide brush. I’m not judging folks whose brains don’t operate like mine. Somebody should paint the space inside the lines, but that somebody probably won’t ever be me.
When Bryan Cranston appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning Show, I replayed part of his interview several times in order to document his words so that I could use them to inspire me and others later. He reminded me that many of the reasons for my exclusion from the circle dweller clubs made me perfectly suited for life outside the lines engaging with people who thrive on new, spontaneous, vibrantly colored conversations and collaborations. Bryan Cranston said he enjoyed being around people who were “still holding on to the sweetness, the sense of wonder.” He told the reporter that he “love[d] being around people who retain a sense of childlike qualities” because “it’s refreshing.”
I love the work I do because I interact with young people daily who dance outside the lines with brilliance when given permission to do so. I love to watch their eyes the minute that they realize they have permission to live the “normal” life they were called to live. The energy generated by a community of innovators and thinkers welcomes the diversity of people, thoughts, gifts, and talents intended to bless all of us when we don’t block the blessings.
I hope that this post will encourage the serious minded, structured folks to consider the value of having someone in their inner circle who embraces the silliness and wonder of a child. Here are some reasons that I keep a couple of childlike friends in my circle:
- When children experience wonder or laughter, their positivity is contagious
- I’ve heard that I there are few wrinkles when I smile as opposed to when I frown. Why would I ever want more wrinkles?
- I learned from gyrokinesis that a deep laugh can push out stale air and make room for more oxygenated air.
- Laughter helps me relieve stress.
- Laughter brings my happy hormones (endorphins) to the surface.