Creative Commons Photo by Aaron Burden
Today is school Halloween. Which means I am currently sitting at a desk dressed as Nancy Drew as a Panda leads a group of students (dressed as a collection of Donald Trumps, Storm Troopers, cats, and football players) up the stairs to their classes. It’s really the best. If I could wear a costume to work every day, I would be all about that.
While leaving lunch, I pass a door out into the back playground area, where the current recess group is out frolicking as their character of the day. There’s a clump at the tetherball area, another group playing some sort of game called Gaga (which still confuses me), and a group of girls dressed as cheerleaders are choreographing a routine in the corner. But separated from the rest of the kids, in a fantastic beam of light coming over the top of the roof, is a girl dressed in a flowing homemade butterfly costume, which mainly consists of black clothing and iridescent fabric pieces connected to her arms. Without a care in the world, she’s flapping around and looking at the pattern her rainbow wings are making on the concrete as the sun catches the fabric.
Little lady, I get you. This was totally me. And maybe still is. When I was a kid, organized sports were not my jam. Being forced to do this in gym was enough for me. To say the least, when recess was no longer a thing, I was not heartbroken. It was like, “Hey kids, go out and hope that another group also does not enjoy playing a game involving throwing a ball at your head or ramming into each other.” As an introverted person, heading out into a crowd without structure created the same feeling I currently get when I go into a crowd of “networking” people who just want to small-talk.
Nope. I was all about spinning around and looking at shadows. I wanted to stare at the trees and play with the grass. This made me a terrible softball player and a very happy theatre kid.
The thing that seems to confuse people as you grow up as a butterfly kid is that being shy means being emotionally delicate or immature. Though of course it’s important for teachers to check in with kids who are disconnected from the crowd, there were many times I was perfectly content doing my own thing. And as you get older, I’ve find myself defending my shyness more than when I was little.
In the past several months in particular, I’ve had several people make comments on the importance of “toughening up” and “accepting that life is hard.” Christ, people. Just because someone isn’t going with the flow of pushy societal norms all the time does not mean they don’t know how to handle stress in a healthy manner. I recently read a really lovely post about being called “too nice” and why this personality choice takes as much effort as being assertive. As expected, the first comment contained what I constantly hear: a message about passive aggression and bad intentions. People who assume that your kindness is “manipulative” is truly the result of projecting personal paranoia, and yet it does wear on you when you legitimately want to be a nice person. It is not a sign of weakness or subtle subtle aggression, maybe it’s legitimately “being real,” as everyone seems to love saying. “Being real” does not have to mean being a forthright jerk.
So yes, this has been a bit of a rant against those that have thrown their assumptions about weakness my way recently. But the happy butterfly child in the backyard was a nice reminder that there is nothing wrong with spinning in the breeze instead of chucking a tetherball at your friend. Both are fine. And both are what make that person happy.
So keep spinning, butterfly girl! Just because you are on Jupiter, I will never read into your silence as unintelligence, bad intentions, or emotional immaturity. Keep doin’ your thing and I will be over here also doing my own thing.