After 60 years, they’re still my best friends and the holiday heroes who first taught me that I belonged.
Since I first learned to read I scoured the TV Guide each December in search of the day and time the superheroes of my holiday would again invite me into their world. I’d no idea that hour I spent with these misfits each Christmas would come to define so much of my early childhood.
The Island of Misfit Toys was first visited by Rudolph, the original outcast, in 1964…the same year when at four years old, I already knew I was different. Very different. I wasn’t like other kids or other boys. I was irregular, felt unlike the others and felt unliked by the others. I was the Charlie-in-the-box, the disowned Dolly and the discarded Spotted Elephant. King Moonracer, the winged-lion ruler of their small, wintry island that was my everywhere, was, like the others, a flawed mockery of an empty promise that their island rescue was ever possible when you’re just a little too different from children of the mainstream.
The middle child of three, I’d neither the rights of the eldest nor the admiration of the youngest. As birth-order theory would later reveal I was the “survivor.” And I’ve earned that title many times over since.
As a caveat, my parents and siblings never were perpetrators of the feelings and beliefs I’d held all those years. I grew up in a great family with great parents and as normal a childhood as I could surmise was normal. But some of us are just born a bit odd and unusual for some reason and I found myself a misfit on an island in the middle of a loving family who knew no different.
Older now and armed with a therapist’s education and more messed up life experiences than I care to enumerate here, things have finally begun to gel. “Different” and “misfit” have given way to “unique” and “defining” as I’ve come to accept and love myself for my own peculiarities. Early identification with these animated friends scripted my life with a passion for the underdog, the discarded, the lonely and the horses of many colors. What I once considered liabilities of my youth are now proud assets of my aging self. Championing causes of the bullied, broken and the more-than-a-little bent are what wakes me up every morning and drives my work, life and writing.
But my mind wanders and ponders what might be my sum of these experiences. What’s the end game of my oddities? How will all my quirky differences make differences in this world for other misfits? Will I solve any world problems, rescue others, or be afforded time to write my final chapter? My worry is I’ll be plucked from this island with more than a mouthful of words still left to speak on behalf of all the other imperfect playthings. I suppose I may find that this island is really no island at all, I was never really alone, and I was never discarded nor misfitted, but actually a lot more normal than I ever realized.
Too many questions course through my thinker, but history proves that the more questions I ask, the more likely I’ll arrive at answers, and here’s an important one:
There are more of us than there are of them.
I might find that having branded myself a misfit for so long I’m able to see more misfittings in others from what was otherwise a same human assembly line from which we’re all cut. “Regular” people get noticed plenty and frankly, I find that fact a bit mundane. I enjoy irregular people. Indeed, irregularities are what makes people most attractive.
Being normal lacks originality. But those who leap tall buildings, spend their lives trying, those with an edge, an X factor or that certain je ne sais quoi, supply color to an otherwise bland earthly palette. I find they are the pioneers of thought, masters of creativity and possessors of the deepest of souls. Early on, us outcasts quickly learned survival skills through not belonging. Instinctively, we know how to appreciate other misfits and the inherent power that lies in being just strange enough to stand out. And if we get past society’s segregations, live beyond our insecurities and fears, and reframe those few developmental moments, we may discover, as I have, that our novelties are what makes us leaders and influencers and that others may follow us precisely because of them.
We all eventually find our place on this big blue island and notice we’re not really alone. Everyone has a novelty, a strangeness we can’t and shouldn’t discard just for being different. That oddity is our Ace. Play it proudly and one day you may be stunned to find everyone else at the table was also once blind to the value of their own weirdness.
And that in the land of the blind, the cross-eyed can still be king.
Spots and all.