I was up to my knees in glue, hands covered in paint, and coffee table strewn with cut out hearts and handwritten notes pasted onto cards made out of paper grocery sacks. The sweet smell of fresh baked cookies wafted through the house, when my dad gently approached me and asked, “Are you sure you’re doing this for them, love? You’re not trying to make them like you, are you now?”
My mouth twisted to one side, and I sighed heavily, realizing he was right. The past few months had taken me straight back to high school, and I was reacting the same as I had then. Kids “affectionately” told me I was weird and random, so I made every effort to suppress any bit of myself that might warrant these tags. It’s not so much that I wanted to be like everyone else, it was more that I didn’t like being picked on. Self preservation. “Weird” might be a cool identifier now, but in high school, it was up there with “slut” and “poser.”
When I’m nice to people, it comes from a genuine place of love and gratitude for God, others, and the world around me. But I overcompensated…because I wanted people to like me. I’d stay up all night on school nights baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch to take and share with my classmates, “just because.” I made birthday cards for everyone—doled out my unique love in heavy doses on comatose patients who were just happy for a delicious homemade snack and a humorous anecdotal card to read during an otherwise mundane school day. Can you blame them? Flattery, cloying sweetness— it’s no way to win friends. It might win you favor, but little else. Kids generally liked me, thought I was sweet, but didn’t know or care about much else. A form of social purgatory, if you ask me.
My first few months back in church after a two year hiatus were harder than I’d thought they’d be. When people started tagging me as “weird,” “random,” and “strange” again, those dormant high school feelings, anxieties, and coping mechanisms came back in full force. I chided myself strongly for even caring. Wasn’t I supposed to be above all that? Cool, calm, and unaffected by what others thought? Heck, my brand of quirky is even popular now, thanks to the likes of Zooey Deschanel and other manic pixie dream girls taking over television screens with their awkward charm and expansive vocabularies.
Well it turns out I’m not so cool and unaffected after all. And in an unconscious attempt to win over the new group and in effect apologize for being who I am, I have started to pull the old tricks out again— baking, gifting, and attempting to be so nice that I can’t be faulted for my unfortunate weirdness.
I love showing people how much I care about them by making cards, baking, and showering them with hidden notes, surprises, and words expressing and articulating my affections, but I want to do these things for the right reasons. I want pure motivations. I learnt this lesson years ago, but apparently we have to relearn things sometimes. I don’t need to apologize for who I am, because there’s nothing wrong with me. I like who I am. I like being weird. And the people who love me, love me for all those quirks and idiosyncrasies. I need to love all people, but conserve my special energy for those special birds who speak to my soul and see me.