Life as a Perpetual Outsider ( + obsessed with the 1970s)
The 1970s ended over 40 years ago (I know, because I was born just past the height of Disco Fever). Today, many mimic and try to recapture the glitz, the iconic platforms that made an average person (like me) instantly sheik-modelesque, disco bunnies, clams on the halfshell and roller skates, nose powdering, ballroom categories and TOTAL COMMITMENT to a specific fashion style. (Two of my favorite online websites -- The Hippie Shake and Stoned Immaculate-- offer better versions of 70s-style clothes than most vintage stores, and they are riding the waves of popularity and my bank account!)
Most of us enjoy dipping our toes back into the 70s on occasion. But for me, the 70s has been and always will be my go-to life landscape - the fashion, the attitudes, the studio 54 lassiez faire life, dreamboat androgynous crushes (peep here to see my all time favorite 70s crush), the endless parade of bellbottoms.
My non-relenting identification with the 70s is a good metaphor for own narrative as a perpetual outsider.
In short, I would not change a thing about the life I chose for myself-- which has rendered me an outsider-- nor the methods of self-expression I default to. If you are an outsider like me -- partial, total, whatever-- please keep reading as we explore the identity and characteristics of an outsider.
Myth #1: Outsiders = Hipsters/ all musicians/ good-looking people with negative attitudes/ lazy people. NEVER outsiders = Fit people, healthy people, happy people, motivated people, nice people.
I want to disabuse you of the idea that outsider is a person who earns the title through ostracizing others and/or appearing not to give a fuck about anything. People who are artistic AND self-absorbed, lazy, shitty to people they date, with all sorts of unaddressed issues - any combination of these qualities - are not necessarily outsiders. There are plenty of these types I have met in life, surrounded by a swinging door of friends and lovers. They pretend it is not so, but don't be fooled, they have convening power and they are not, and never, flying solo.
Truth #1: Outsiders are misplaced, but often lovingly and peacefully, create a space for themselves wherever they are.
Just like the Sudanese pilgrims whom I met on a bus on the dusty Karakorum Highway 20 years ago, dressed head-to-toe in white, rolling out their prayer mats at a dischordant Chinese border bus station -- home is where you lay your mat. Where I live now, I am most certainly an outsider. Locals not only know I am not from here, but they know I'm not really from anywhere enough to say I fit the norm of X people from X country. I go out, I have amazing local friends who are fellow outsiders (people who have lived significant amounts of years / their whole lives here, but are not solely defined by the strong group identity of this place). I join the parade of nightlife, but I also stay home and read/listen to records/recreate Kashmir on guitar/ write this blog. Isolated, or with a partner or friends to accompany, I lovingly create a space of comfort and refuge in which others are welcome. I participate, I isolate, I party, I brood, I plan, I create. I make the choice every day to accept my outsider status and use it as a gateway to truly being myself.
Myth #2: Outsiders are misunderstood, difficult, unable to partner with others.
You may have been told that outsider status is untouchable to emotionally-available plebians, but that is not true. While someone may present as the Lizard King of Obscurity, surrounded by a harem of followers and friends and never really alone, a true outsider more often strives within themselves to understand and interact with the changing landscape that is life, society, new places, and new people.
Truth #2: An outsider often chooses to be present and stand alone in uncomfortable moments - and be true to who they are, regardless of pressure to conform or tamp down their personality and preferences. No matter how much woke society tells us to embrace being uncomfortable, very few know what this truly means and have experienced unfettered, non-translated, uncomfortableness. And for those of us who have experienced the true discomfort of being outside of our own limits, even fewer have chosen to stand alone in these moments without clamoring for a lifeline. This is where my own outsiderness falls to the wayside, at least as of late - it is hard not to clamor to an identity or a group that isn't yours, when faced with the oblivion of perplexing circumstances, without satisfactory answers. (To be continued in another blog post...)
The truth is, you don't get to have all the benefits of being an outsider without the true struggles. And while they are lifelong, these struggles -- they fill our tanks with purpose, and the knowledge that we are constantly learning and expanding ourselves... and quite
possibly others, too!