Today, I will be in a unique position as one of very few “mainstream” Americans at a conservative Brethren wedding. I will be in a dress that shows my ankles and my arms, my hair will be down, and I will be wearing make-up. I expect that almost every other woman at that wedding – including the bride – will be covered from ankle to neck, have their hair up and covered as well, and be clean-faced and pristine of decoration. While as a person I am admittedly feeling a little nervous about this, as a writer I’m very much looking forward to the new experience – something to think and write about.
I expect most people feel like outsiders at least some of the time. For some, this feeling drives them to overcome it by connecting more with others or finding people like themselves. For me, this sense of being outside the norm fueled me to write.
If I had felt accepted and included in most situation as a kid, I’m not sure what I’d be doing with my life now, but because my position in life often was on the edges looking in, I started to get really good at looking. I developed the ability to be in a situation as both a participant, albeit minimally sometimes, and an observer very quickly. While it took me time and training to be able to articulate what I was seeing, I learned early in life to find my place by accepting that often I wouldn’t be at the center of things and valuing what this peripheral point of view showed me.
As an adult who has embraced her vocation as a writer, I now don’t just accept my observations as a way to make my experience valuable or even as a way of coping with life. Instead, I seek out new experiences so that I have them and witness them, too. . . it’s a strange kind of psychological double-vision, I suppose.
But tomorrow, when I stand out not because I am covered but because I am not, I will relish the experience for what it teaches me and the words it gives me. Nothing tops that for me, most days, except perhaps the chance to see my beautiful friend’s face as she marries the man she loves.