I wore mismatched shoes to work. I made it all the way to work and into my building before, while riding in the elevator up to my office, I noticed that the shoe on my left foot was different than the shoe on my right foot. I was embarrassed because it made me feel even less like a “real woman” than I usually did… but both shoes were black in color, at least, and it was too late to return home, which was a long way away from the office. Luckily, it wasn’t “staff” day, which meant I could pretty much hide at my desk most of the day and hope no one would notice.

Every time I happened to look down or remembered my shoes were different, a wave of crashing defeat coursed through me. Every time I saw the mismatched shoes, I thought of other moments in my life when I failed at being human: there was that time when I went to the Publix in my affluent neighborhood in pajamas that were stained with flour because I’d been baking bread all morning and ran out of oil. To make matters worse, I literally did the splits, which landed me in a puddle of water as I tried to get back into my car. Or the time I was mocked by flawless women during an excruciatingly painful period. There have been numerous occasions when a shoe was on the wrong foot. People looked at me weird and laughed when I let the girls play in the rain or when I crawled through tunnels that were too small for me rather than let them play alone. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten lost in this city, the one I’ve driven in for, oh, thirty years or so. My eyebrows are not manicured because I don’t care enough, and I don’t wear makeup for the same reason. I’m literally in a leadership role at work and, yet, stepping into a room full of fellow executives makes my stomach drop. Once, several years ago, I walked into a room full of other authors, ones who had never been anything but kind to me, and nearly passed out from nerves and ineptitude. This is not new, though. Inadequacy has shadowed me my entire life. I charmed teachers into letting me stay in their classrooms instead of going to pep rallies because I hated being in a crowd of my peers. When I got to college, posters advertising sororities terrified me. Going to work with two different shoes was just one example in which my level of awkwardness became too much to handle.

I’ve struggled to “fit in” my entire life. I’ve longed to be “normal,” while always intrinsically understanding I wasn’t. I’d bury my head into whatever book I was writing or reading. I didn’t set out to ignore my peers, but ignore them, I did. It felt safer than risking rejection or abandonment. It wasn’t until college I realized that maybe that contributed to why no one talked to me. It took me literally years to really learn left from right, I was always chosen last for every event and every game, in the history of forever (not to say I particularly blame anyone for this because I -did- carry a bat around all bases with me…), I was awkward and inept my whole life. What came easy to other people felt like climbing Mount Everest to me.

The only difference was that I was really, really good at pretending. I pretended I couldn’t care less. I pretended being alone was by choice. And, daily, I pretended everything was just fine – at home, at school and, later, at work. In my head, I created elaborate scenarios in which I was one of those ‘normal’ women walking down the street with friends … except I’d take the time to say hello instead of making hurtful jokes because being kind was stronger. As ridiculous as it is to say aloud, characters like Landon Montgomery and Michael from The Friends Series truly became my friends. They’d show up whenever I felt alone or sad or when I was really hurting and because they were flawless and wonderful, I was able to pretend their thoughts about me mattered. I still vibrantly remember entire conversations held in my head with these completely imaginary people. If I thought about self-harm, Landon would remind me that he literally owns a ranch for troubled kids. I didn’t want to be a “case” for Landon, I wanted to be his friend. The stories mattered because they kept me safe from any and everything hurtful.

Imagination quite literally saved me.

The truth is: I’m not normal. The truth is: none of us are normal. The definition of normal, according to the dictionary is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical or standard.” There may be cultural or social patterns but those patterns are maintained by people. Science has proved that not even identical twins are truly identical: they have unique fingerprints, for example. People are inherently different. If no one is the same, then there can’t actually be “typical” or “standard.” There might be expected, but that’s only because the majority of people haven’t embraced their uniqueness. I certainly am still trying to do that. I care very much about pleasing others, about living up to their expectations because there’s a part of me that hopes to be found worthy. Worthy of time, worthy of commitment, worthy of friendship, worthy of respect, maybe even worthy of joy, of health. What I should remember, though, is that normal is an imagined state: it doesn’t really exist. The truth is that none of us are the same; although we share a common menu of emotions, how we respond to each of those emotions differs from person to person. It is a beautiful thing to be uniquely you. As a Christian, I firmly believe that we were each created in the image of the Almighty God. The first question, then, is who is He — and there’s so much in that question, too much for one blog post — but, at His core, I believe God is love. A prism of love reflecting back in a million ways.

Since you were created in the image of God, you reveal a piece of who He is just exactly the way you are.

Since you reveal a part of God’s character, I want to know you, to understand you; being kind to you matters because of the care, purpose and thought that went into your creation.

Being weird is being true.

I care deeply about being kind. I don’t hold grudges, and I don’t get angry. Children are my universe. I will be vulnerable by sharing my story, and as open as I can be. I advocate for those who can’t speak up. I love baking, especially from scratch, especially cinnamon rolls and bread. Music matters. Bubble baths relax me; reading grounds me. Writing is a safe haven. Faith is important. I work hard, am fiercely loyal and more dedicated than I sometimes should be. Deep down, I care about people the most. I love teaching and learning; games make me happy. Mountains make me feel protected; I love deer and lions and milk chocolate and peach tea. I will protect those around me, but I will ignore my own protection. I love clean, situational humor.

I can also be awkward. I have walls the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Trauma is a part of my past, even recent past, and it will always influence my thoughts and my behaviors. I wore mismatched shoes to work; sometimes I’ve left the house totally forgetting to put shoes on at all. Sarcasm isn’t usually funny to me. I’ve never had a sip of alcohol. I’ve not been on a date in about twelve years and have no intention of seeking one out. I will back down from confrontations even if I have hard core evidence I am right because very little is worth damaging a relationship by fighting. I talk to myself, out loud. I repeat things people say to make sure I’ve understood them correctly. I talk with my hands. Sometimes I have to think for a minute about which is left and which is right. I am actually fairly bright–but I will downplay that because others come first. If you invest in me, in any way, I’ll do everything I can to pay you back. I talk to, and firmly believe in, perfectly imaginary characters; I’ve cried because of their stories, and I’ve laughed, too. I sing in the car. Hugs matter to me. Weirdness is part of who I am.

Wearing mismatched shoes to work made me feel less like a human. It made me feel defeated, like I’d failed at being an adult. I could explain why it happened, and that I was going through a lot, and that, frankly, it was a miracle I went to work that day at all… ultimately, it doesn’t matter how it happened, only that it did. But, today, I celebrate mismatched shoes and all the quirks that make up who I am as reminders that I’m not supposed to be the same as anyone else: I’m supposed to be me. I want my girls to know that their idiosyncrasies are adored and accepted because they are pieces of who they are and who they are are worthy, impactful people who have shown me what it is to truly love unconditionally and be loved in return. Subscribing to the notion that we should somehow mold ourselves into something we’re not isn’t only dangerous, it’s loopy crazy because those to whom we’re comparing ourselves are likely comparing themselves to someone else. Being who we are–flaws, idiosyncrasies, strengths, gifts and all– opens the door to finding truer, meaningful connections with people who will uplift, support, encourage and motivate us to fulfilling the potential within. Also: it’s just easier to be me.

When I interview candidates, I usually start by asking them what’s something they care about, what are they passionate about? Then, later in the interview, mid-way, I’ll ask them to teach me something about that passion. Once, the candidate said she liked drawing, so I turned my paper around and asked her to teach me to draw something, anything. It put her on the spot but before we were done, we’d both laughed. It’s a way for me to “break the ice” and see the real person, not the one who’s trying to give me the “right” answers. It’s also a way for me to see how they might lead: do they ask if I understand the directions, do they rattle off too many steps at once, do they offer feedback? It’s a weird thing I do in interviews… but it’s also the most fun thing I do. I want to see people who are taken aback enough that they let their real selves shine through — like these people did.

Today, I’m celebrating the mismatched shoes–and hoping that, if I ever feel less than again because I’ve done something “unusual” (though there really isn’t such a thing) or weird, I will remember that being perfect (that’s an entirely different post) or ordinary isn’t the goal. Fitting in is also not the goal. The goal is service, kindness and peace.

What makes you odd?