Have you ever been labeled “different” or “creative”? I’m talking about scenarios when those words are used as a back-handed compliment with a negative connotation.
A few years ago, I started a new job. I was sitting in the office kitchen with a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” My supervisor asked me, “Why are you reading a book? Oh is it because Tolstoy is from Russia and the Winter Olympics are in Russia?” These questions still haunt me. Every time it was pointed out that I was reading a book during my lunch break or working on my French homework or whatever I was doing during my free time, it made me feel like reading literature or pursuing my interests was not something people should be doing with their free time. As a Christmas gift, I was also sent a subscription to “Inc.” magazine. It was almost as if it was a subtle hint that I was not reading enough corporate literature. I really try not to take these things personally, but eventually this stuff starts to add up in my subconscious. Honestly, it was the first time in over 10 years of working in offices did someone ever questioned why I was reading a classic novel.
Another thing that bothered me from my time in cubicle town was when the president of the same company said to me, “Oh that volunteer! She tends to wear very bohemian and flowy clothes. She’s not really respected. She’s a little different and creative. I’d be wary if she has any credibility.” I still don’t understand what wearing bohemian clothes has to do with one’s credibility. So the next day out of rebellion, I wore braids in my hair and a really flowy and sequined kimono with tassels. I know, I really stuck it to the man that day.
When the company started searching for my replacement, they kept saying with office doors wide open for everyone to hear, “Oh our current event planner is too “creative” that’s our biggest problem with her.” These scenarios either force you to make a choice. You either “fit in” to the corporate culture or you eventually decide you have to leave cubicle land for a while (perhaps a really, really long while).
When I finally decided to leave Houston, I still got flack from my former colleagues. One of them actually didn’t believe me or understand my decision to move to another country. I recently heard that she said, “Oh! She actually did move.”
In the end, leaving a lifestyle that no longer served me was one of the best decisions I ever made. There are people out there who are always gonna be sipping on some hater-ade. It’s easier to point out the person who is “different” or “creative” instead of trying to understand that person and take it as an opportunity to learn from someone who looks at the world differently. Small minded people have no room in my life right now.
I’m always going to be a little “off” or a little “different.” When you’re a child of Filipino immigrants born in Montreal and raised in Texas, you’re not really gonna ever blend in or fit in anywhere you go. Honestly, I think fitting in is so boring and kind of lame. I can only be myself – the creative person who wears kimonos, braids my hair, and embraces my differences.