‘‘I’m not the girl-next-door. If you want the girl-next-door, go next door!’’-Rita Hayworth
‘‘Accept yourself’’ is spelled out on my yoga scan card that holds my keys. I look at it every day. And lately, I’ve thought a lot about identity.
Of course, accepting oneself is easier said than done. I accept myself more now than I used to, but there is something that never changes: I feel different. Sometimes I get jealous of ‘‘normal’’ people for fitting in seamlessly, but I’ve come to accept that being different is also my strength. I attract like-minded people, inspire others, and most importantly, stay true to who I am.
Despite the positives, feeling different has been both a blessing and a curse. I do what I should be doing and follow my instinct. I don’t think that I’m ‘‘special’’ necessarily, but society makes me realize that I’m outside of the box. Because of my education, I go into the world with an open mind and I can face walls or unexpressive faces. I suffer when I feel that I should behave a certain way, that I should swallow my thoughts or that I should follow the leader.
Learning to accept myself and not trying too hard to be liked has been a life-long struggle. Countless times, I wanted to be normal. I wanted a family with parents who are married. I wanted to have siblings and a dog. I peered through people’s windows with envy when I saw a full-sized family sharing a meal. But as Theodore Roosevelt once said, ”comparison is the thief of joy.” And it is. It’s better to centre on what’s good in my life than on what I could have.
In the past week though, the struggle got to me. I doubted my capacity for finding work after graduating. I was down because I am still waiting for money and have no funds. The future seems uncertain these days.
On Valentine’s Day at the restaurant, I started crying quietly. And it was not my date’s fault.
I was feeling disappointed and sad. I thought about my artist family and the struggle that’s still so real. I didn’t want to make a scene, and it was not like my date wasn’t supportive: he was. And it’s not like I wasn’t grateful: I was. But some of the things I’m struggling with were taking over my thoughts, so I excused myself to the bathroom, made sure I didn’t look like a raccoon, and went out again.
-It’ll be O.K., I said as I sat down.
-I know how you feel. It’s like my friend Will. He’s very talented, but it’s not working for him right now because he doesn’t fit the mould. You just have to keep believing in yourself.
The waitress came with the cheque. We started talking about the surprising flavours of the carrot, beet and goat cheese cake, which was delicious. Then she looked at me and paused.
-Are you French?
-…I’m from Montreal
My accent isn’t thick but it is noticeable. I’m starting to get over it, but I generally hate when people point it out to me. It’s as if all those years spent working hard to become perfectly bilingual were useless. And it’s another thing that makes me stand out in the crowd, so of course there are times when I want my accent to disappear. But again, it’s a plus: people tell me that it’s endearing pretty often.
As we went out of the restaurant, a man was looking at the board outside.
-Oh, they have beer here now!
-Yes, and it’s very good, they make it here. We just tried and I highly recommend it.
-Oh! You’re French! There’s not a lot of French people in London.
-I know. I’m one of the few! I answered as I crossed the street.
I can run, but I can’t hide. And I don’t want to hide anyway, although sometimes I need to stand back, think and take a breather. I’ll never be normal and that’s O.K. I’ll keep on doing me. I’ll keep believing in myself. When I start thinking that I should be somebody else or that I should be quieter, I remember compliments I received. I know that there are lots of people who love me the way I am. I understand that I have to tap into my own potential and not somebody else’s.
There is no way I’ll ever be a plain Jane. I love things and people that are extraordinary. I need art. I need conversations with enlightened people. I need creativity. I need outlets for my dreams, visions, and wishes. I need to be myself. I’ll keep on wearing pink shoes, cape dresses and sequined t-shirts. I’ll keep on cherishing the things that make me unique because that is what makes me Lili.
Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.