The Straight and Narrow Is Not For Me

by T. Hall

If there was ever a person that was destined to be ‘weird’ – racially ambiguous name, not quite bougie but not quite hood, and raised by a Bob Marley-and-incense kind of mother – it would be me. For a long time I yearned to be on one of the two extremes that I considered ‘normal’ – either grown, like the hotgirls that were idolized in Omar Tyree and Sister Souljah books, or solidly middle-class, like the Huxtables. I never had a pair of Jordans or Timbs or Reeboks. My grandmother thought Birkenstocks were a better investment in my growing feet. Nor did I ever get to go on expensive vacations or get a new computer like my high school classmates. And it was good thing I didn’t.

As a kid fitting in is extremely important. Where I’m from this principle is called ‘get in where you fit in’, and the sentiment is basically this: blend in, don’t cause a ruckus, and go along to get along. For someone with a peculiar personality, doing this can be tough, and my prolonged awkward stage (ages 13-23) meant that I was quite unsuccessful for a very long time. After a while I recognized that the straight and narrow path wasn’t for me, and that it was too hard try to put myself in boxes that didn’t fit who I was. So I did the opposite. I stood out.

I stood out like my slightly bucked teeth that didn’t get fixed until college, but then went rogue after I broke my retainer. I stood out like the lopsided afro I possessed during my last 3 years in college, back when younger women were still getting their edges lyed, dyed, and laid to the side. I stood out like the random references to obscure literature and nerdery that drew sideways glances from my Hillman homies. Now, everybody is different and nerdy and edgy and natural. But before everyone hopped on the pseudo-hipster wave there were the brave first adopters who did it before it was cool.

The greatest lesson I could have ever learned was being comfortable in my own skin, and it never would have happened if I was always Perfect Patty, or if I had been given everything I wanted growing up. The growth that comes along with taking the road less traveled is worth so much more than the easy wins. And now that I think about it, I don’t think I would want to have lived my life any other way.

  • shay

    Wow thanks for this. I can definitely relate. I grew up very similar

  • B.Payne

    I used to get called a Lunatic because I wore fatigues in grade school before Master P/Pharrell made it fashionable.

    I also listened to a lot of rock music and was called Satan….but it’s still cool, lol

  • Downsouth Transplant

    I could’ve done with this essay in middle school, back when i was trying to be “cool” with my hair fried, “dyed, and laid to the side”. :)

  • misa cheri

    wow i can def relate to this article. ive always deep down thought i had to fit in too and be some so-called “hood” girl becos im blak, but now i can let all of that go and just be comfortable in my own skin

  • 3 Beauties PR

    yup thats me!

  • Danielle

    I loved this article and thank you for writing it! So many people (most people, maybe?) just try to fit in for their whole lives. I was never like that and have become ok with that path but it can be lonely and isolating at times. So, it is encouraging to hear that there are other sisters out there who embrace it. I hope to run into them!

  • Rachelle

    I think everyone can relate to this article. I definitely can. I’m 25 and I still a bit awkward *shrugs*

  • Avril

    That’s so me! I love this article and thank you for writing it! I was always smack, dab in the middle growing up. Not black enough, not white enough, too educated, not hood enough for any group. I’m just me and I’m so happy to be me now! All the struggles and triumphs have made me who I am today and I am thankful for all of it. Remember girls, it’s ok to be the lonely sheppard. Lead yourself down your path and no one elses.

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