We are all born unique. And though in the beginning all we do is eat, cry and sleep, it is ironic that we are the most unique in our earliest years. There is no concept of society for a baby, and they know exactly what they want, and how to get it : just cry and wail till the parents can’t take it anymore.
But every bird has to eventually fly out of its safe nest into the big bad world. And this is when we discover a new want: acceptance. Thus begins the battle every man/woman must fight: his/her beliefs vs those of society. What is right and wrong, how should one live; the fundamental beliefs that define all our actions.
History is full of great men who won this colossal battle. It is also full of those who were eventually broken.
Some of you may not even recognize this as an issue or need. Maybe your beliefs are concurrent with those of society, or maybe you’ve already lost.
But I’ve always found it lacking. And I know this is a far bigger challenge for those who are identified by their religion, race or sexuality. The kind of acceptance I’m talking about is different. It’s about basic choices in your daily life that are common to human beings.
For instance, one of the constant refrains I hear from friends is how I always put people I like on pedestals, then inevitably end up being treated like trash. I’m also endlessly taunted about being more comfortable with women. Or how I cannot ever accept the idea of casual sex, or why I don’t smoke up. How can I have dinners by myself in pubs and cafes alike. Why I cannot make simple changes for a more convenient and happy life. Why? Because that is who I am, damn it! I worship those I respect, and stay away from things I don’t. I choose integrity over convenience despite being labelled an idealistic fool.
It’s not like I’m a hermit of any sort, I have several flaws. And though here I can string a couple of sentences together as a stoic defense, the reality is that I have a need to feel accepted.
The supposed experts would say that the real issue is not being able to accept myself, like it’s just a checkbox I could go and simply click on, following which my life will automatically become the great adventure it is meant to be and how pigs will fly on broomsticks.
Neither do I want people to come and tell me, “I like you the way you are.” When you feel accepted, you just know.
A couple of years ago, I visited Zagreb during my travels in Europe. I was on my own without much of a plan. I walked straight to the hostel with my luggage, and asked the receptionist to somehow find a way for me to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park the next morning.
She made a couple of quick phone calls, and gave me some important pointers about which buses I should catch and when. I felt grateful for the attention she gave me, and more so because that trip turned out to be the best of my life.
After coming back, I wanted to go and thank her and tell her about my day. Hers was a night shift, so I waited.
The previous night I was in a hurry, so didn’t notice her closely. But that night, as she started her shift, I realized how beautiful she was. The one thing I remember to this day, is the kindness that was in her eyes, like family welcoming you home.
We spoke about how we got to this point in life, the choices we made, the things we want. We were listening to music ranging from Queen to Hans Zimmer, discussing books and movies we liked. Her shift ended at 6 am, and that is when I went back to my room.
The next morning I cancelled my plans of going to Dubrovnik, spent the day in Zagreb, and waited for the night shift to begin. Why? I had no ulterior motives.
Remember how Harry Potter discovers the mirror of Erised in the first book, and sees his parents standing by him in the reflection? He longs to go back there every night, because it’s the closest he can get to his family.
My reasons were the same; except that instead of family, it was the closest I’d come to feeling accepted. Nothing but the clock stopped us from sharing our deepest thoughts and passions.
When the clock struck 6, I was understandably morose, because her shift was over and I was leaving Zagreb during the day. As I was leaving with words of goodbye, she embraced me with open arms, the way her eyes and words had for two nights.
I was completely taken aback. All my life I’ve tried to embrace people the same way, hoping the feeling is reciprocated, but was always left standing with open arms like an idiot, metaphorically. And then comes this woman, unbelievably generous of spirit, and does that.
I know she enjoyed my company too, because we’re still in touch.
Of course, I should learn to accept myself. But do I not deserve such moments of belonging? Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?