I was so sad to hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away earlier this week. He’s always been one of my favorite actors. If you haven’t seen the movie Flawless, in which he plays a drag queen, be sure you do. It’s one of his lesser-known roles and it’s genius.
Here’s my all-time favorite movie quote, which happens to have been one of Seymour Hoffman’s lines in Almost Famous:
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
I, for one, have never been cool, despite trying, from time to time, to be cool. I hung with the academically-inclined and the theater crowd in high school. (We were officially the Yarmouth Playmakers yet were known by much of the student body as the “Gaymakers.”)
I used to want to fit in really badly. And I wanted my family to fit in, too. I would say to my mom:“Why can’t you be like the other mothers?”
Instead, she’d show up to my soccer games with her medical intuitive best friend and read tarot cards on the bleachers. C’est la vie.
Over time I began to embrace the wacky, both within my family and within myself. I think my original desire to be cool was based on wanting to feel like I belonged.
Isn’t a sense of connection, acceptance, and belonging the reason most of us try to fit in?
The Difference Between Fitting In and Belonging
There’s an inherent problem with fitting in, though. It requires you to shrink.
But here’s the good news:
We can be all of who we are and have a sense of belonging at the same time.
I used to think that if I stood out no one would like me. I thought I would end up alone if I really let myself loose on the world. I had a litany of examples of times when this had been true in my life and in the lives of those I’d observed.
What I found out was that when we stand out there are indeed some people who don’t like us. But they’re not the people with whom we need concern ourselves.
As I continue to release the layers of trying to fit in and gauging my behavior based on whether or not people will like me for it, I’ve found something out:
The MORE permission we give ourselves to be who we are, unedited — and yes, often uncool — the more we feel we belong amongst the people who really matter.
My closest friends are also out there putting themselves on the line. They’re writing things that some people think are “out there.” They’re launching programs that push buttons. They’re saying things from stage that make people uncomfortable. They’re building businesses that break the conventional rules.
Plus, all the while they’re snorting while laughing and nerding out on young adult fantasy novels in their spare time.
They’re not being cool. They’re being themselves.
Where’s Your Wacky?
What parts of yourself are you shy to expose? Where is your wacky? What would you share if you weren’t being cool?
Here are a few of mine:
- I LOVE country music. I will listen to country for hours on end. It’s not erudite or high brow in any way and I don’t care. I used to pretend I liked obscure indie bands. The truth is, I don’t.
- I’m a HUGE word nerd. Spoonerisms, or when what you’re trying to say comes out wrong (for example, saying “The Lord is a shoving leopard,” instead of “The Lord is a loving shepherd”) are my absolute favorite type of humor and often make me fall on the floor laughing.
- I have super-cheesy taste in movies. I like almost anything as long as it doesn’t scare, disturb, or depress me. I used to watch movies that I found boring or depressing because I thought somehow it made me more intellectual. I’ve realized that my time is too precious for that.
Trying to fit in with the other moms, not speaking up because you’re afraid to offend, pretending you like what everyone else likes, and other forms of shrinking to fit in are not doing you, or anyone else, any good.
Cut that shit out.
It’s time to wave your freak flag and declare what makes you weird with pride.
(Chances are good these parts are not cool, at least not in the traditional sense.)
What you share when you’re not being cool is gold.
What makes you uncool? What part of yourself that you’ve previously been afraid of showing other people are you ready to let shine?
Leave a comment. Let’s celebrate our uncool together.