After 59 years, they’re still my best friends and the holiday heroes who first taught me that I belong.
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 annual hour I spent with these misfits 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 when at four years old I already knew I was different. Very different. I wasn’t like other kids, other boys. I was irregular, 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 unlikely winged-lion ruler of their small, wintry island that was my everywhere, was a flawed mockery of an empty promise that a rescue was ever possible for my friends and I who were just a little too different for mainstream children to play with.
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 the 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 are finally beginning to gel. “Different” and “misfit” have given way to “unique” and “defining” as I’ve come to accept and love myself for my 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 young life are now proud assets in my older one. Championing causes of the bullied, broken and the more-than-a-little bent are what wakes me up every morning.
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 even 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 in the world. I suppose I may find that this island is no island at all, I was never alone, and I was never discarded or misfitted, but actually a lot more normal than I realized.
Too many questions course through my thinker, but the more questions I ask, the more likely I’ve arrived 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 otherwise was the same human assembly line from which we’re all cut. “Regular” people get noticed plenty and frankly, I find it mundane. I enjoy irregular people. Indeed it’s what makes them most attractive.
Being normal isn’t very original. But those who leap tall buildings or spend their lives trying, those with an edge, an X factor or that certain je ne sais quoi supply color to an otherwise bland world palette. They are pioneers of thought, masters of creativity and possessors of the deepest of souls. Early on, us outcasts quickly learn from 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 find our reframing in a few defining 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 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 once blind to the value of their own weirdness in some way. And that in the land of the blind, the cross-eyed can still be king.
Spots and all.