The Importance of Being Awkward

This is me at 9 years old. By 1985 standards I was right on schedule for awkward, but still.

The night before picture day I slept in pink sponge rollers in a deliberate attempt to do this to my hair. Also, my mom spent 20 solid minutes perfecting my feathered bangs per explicit instruction. Friends, 4th grade was the start of my awkward journey that didn’t end until my junior year of college.

Looking awkward was only the beginning. Long after the braces came off and the tapered acid-washed jeans fell by the wayside, the awkward remained. I was afraid to talk to strangers, uncomfortable with my body, and insecure about my opinions, each fear adding layer upon layer to my internal awkwardness. As much as I envied girls at the time who managed to exude confidence and poise in everything from their bodies to their outspoken thoughts, I’ve come to appreciate the value of my awkward journey.

While awkward kids don’t necessarily appreciate the gifts that set them apart from the rest, time reveals that they’re bits of coal transforming into diamonds; all they needed was a little time and careful mining.

Popular, or non-awkward kids, never had the luxury of developing their gifts or character slowly. They were role models, appointed by the student class as the benchmark of all that was attractive and acceptable. Sadly, the popular kids never had the freedom to make the mistakes of their youth anonymously. Perhaps even more sadly, the non-awkward were cheated out of the figurative swan transformation, that amazing thing that happens once we learn to embrace the many pieces that made us special and start owning ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder how kids who’ve escaped the pivotal age of awkward fare…[read more]

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