Oddballs, outcasts, geeks, cast aside, left out, different, don’t belong
In addition to being an aunt, daughter, sister, friend, a doctor, and suffer off a chronic illness, I am a massive movie and TV series buff. In particular I love a bit of superhero action, and anyone else who follows movies know that Marvel in particular have provided us with a massive amount of entertainment this past while, and have many more exciting adventures in the pipeline.
One of the many things I really miss since developing a disability is going to the cinema. I have been thinking about this over the past few months as I have entered into a new relationship with an amazing guy who unbelievably is a way bigger geek than even I am, and that is saying something. Like me he loves going to the movies and among many other Things we are not able to do together, not being able to share this is very frustrating for both of us at times. Any fellow movie fans will know that The Guardians of the Galaxy was just released last week and has been received with much excitement. This quote comes from an interview by the director James Gunn.
‘The Guardians are a group of oddballs, outcasts, and geeks. The movie is for anyone who ever felt cast aside, left out, or different. It’s for all of us who don’t belong’.
I think every single person in the world will have associated with one or more of these words throughout their lives. One of the many characteristics we share is the need to belong. I have been aware of this need to belong all of my life as I am sure everyone has, but since the beginning of my chronic illness/disability I have become so much more aware of what it feels like to be different. It has also made me reflect upon how human beings are so uncomfortable at times with difference within ourselves and others.
If someone was just to spend a short period of time with me they probably wouldn’t know I had a health problem, yeah may be a stiff back but that’s about it I think. If they were to spend a bit more time with me they would realise that I am in constant pain, have to move about into a lot of different positions, can’t sit down long, walk far, and have to rest in between any short activity. When I am with people who I have known for a while or if I meet a person who has an innate ability to help me feel at ease and accepts me for me, Mind and body, I am for the most part able to be okay with these differences. Deep down however even though I know my physical health difficulties are not my fault I continue to experience shame and embarrassment and the need to do everything I can to fit in and look no different than everybody else.
Recently I joined a Facebook page for people like me suffering from a sitting disability (https://www.facebook.com/groups/sittingdisability/10152169639281455/?notif_t=group_activity) whereby we are only able to sit for a very short period of time. Their health problems also make it difficult for them to walk or stand for any significant length of time as well. Some of the people in the group have posted recently about wheelchairs they have access to which are enabling them to have significantly improved quality of life. These wheelchairs recline, some of them enabling you to nearly lie flat. I think how courageous they are to put themselves out there like this. I have thought about how much something like this would allow me to do, for example go to the cinema as well as many other things. Yet because of my shame of being different, my worry that any family member or friend who would help me in this endeavour would also be uncomfortable, and the fact that I will undoubtedly be stared at, I cannot imagine getting the courage to do what these people have done.
The use of a reclining wheelchair is obviously a more observable and obscure difference to embrace. Although the world has made progress there is still a long way to go for it to even become truly accessible, physically and emotionally, for regular wheelchair users. I imagine, understandably, reclining wheelchairs would be a whole new ball game for our culture to get its head around.
Even the perhaps smaller adjustments I have to make in order to enable me to be part of society, meeting new people, going into new a restaurant/cafe, walking alongside someone, having someone come and hang out in my home who has never done so before, I am aware of my differences/needs to varying degrees. I must remember however after going to a certain places a few times, spending some time with the same person, I become more comfortable and the majority off those around me become more comfortable with my idiosyncrasies.
Depending on my company however and perhaps also how vulnerable I am feeling on a particular day I fight even harder to hide any differences I do have, any extra pain I am experiencing, any sadness, fear and frustration I am feeling, to be accepted and treated like everyone else. I am guessing I am not alone in this, regardless of what it is that makes a person feel like an oddball/outcast/that they don’t belong, in that moment.
It deeply saddens me that we are constantly governed by what is socially acceptable at any one point in time in society, and over our history it has always taken a selection of extraordinarily Brave people who have used their differences to courageously instigate and advocate for changes to occur in society from an individual, community and institutional level. Slowly More and more people are inspired by this courage and are able to come out of the proverbial closet.
Minorities still face many challenges and their experiences vary throughout the world, but we have seen much progression from a world where:
- If you had a child outside of wedlock you are incarcerated,
- To be homophobic meant that you were categorised as having a mental illness,
- Black people where second-class citizens and even experienced horrific slavery,
- People with disabilities both physical and psychological were hidden away in institutions
And well the list goes on.
The thing is however we still have so far to go.
- Discrimination and ignorance prevails ,
- difference of many kinds continues to intimidate people and make them uncomfortable,
- many people with disabilities continue to feel embarrassed ashamed of something they have no control over,
- many loved ones struggle with the fact that their loved one being different also makes them different in some way,
- People continue to not talk about and share their experiences due to all of the above, maintaining the belief by everyone that they are Alone in their challenges.
Guardians of the Galaxy
This brings me back to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, a movie about a group of misfits who come together to be part of something and to belong, where their differences no longer matter and are actually seen for the strengths they are.
- Star-Lord: The half human, half alien.
- Drax the Destroyer: A warrior in search of vengeance
- Gamora: An orphan from an alien world
- Groot: A tree-like humanoid
- Rocket: A genetically engineered raccoon
This is accompanied with the realisation if we weren’t different we would not come together with the diverse range of talents and characteristics which In essence is what makes the world go round. And this is what I have picked up without even having seen the movie yet J
I have always been somewhat of a geek, something which when you look back even a decade ago was not the coolest of things to be but even this is changing. As I said to my friend the other day ‘geek is the new chic’. Even the BBC News thinks so! (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20325517)
When you look at movies, comic books, TV series about super heroes there are always many opposing yet synchronous themes of: difference and strength, Acceptance and rejection, reassurance and fear, rescuers and bullies, and what we can learn from them is endless. Guardians of the Galaxy enhances these fantasy worlds; often without us even realising it, greatly and constantly influencing and representing the real and evolving world we live in.
I hope that one day I can learn to be true to the different, geeky, disabled, quirky, vulnerable, chronically ill, person I am today, wherever my journey takes me; also realising the many strengths I have always been blessed with, in addition to the ways my many diversities (not only my illness) have made me the kind, empathic, reflective, non-judgemental person I am today, both personally and professionally.
I know I am not quite there yet but I also hope that one day soon I will develop the courage to become part of the change that I dream of, an advocate for myself and others who are or feel different in any way; As well as for those who love someone who is different, as by association this can make our loved ones feel different too, something which needs equal recognition.
The irony is that every single human being on this planet is different, and depending on what context they are in are more or less aware of these differences. We also share an innate desire to belong. Perhaps it is only by our collective consciousness slowly evolving to truly get in touch with this existential reality that we will become more comfortable and true to our own uniqueness as well as the uniqueness of others.
Returning to Guardians of the Galaxy – We are all Groot
I would like to end with a quote from Robin Williams, a true inspiration of mine. Like millions of others around the world I was deeply saddened to hear of his death this week. This quote from him came up on my newsfeed today and I could only think of how apt it is for what it is I am trying to convey.
Please also take the time to read my next blog which simply contains a statement from James Gunn, one of my new inspirations as you can see, about Robin Williams a man who has inspired me since I was a child.