Written for the prompt: Write an essay designed to inspire us.
|All Words: 818
Because I'm Weird
"Are you serious?" is the question I got most often. It's the question I still get often, actually. It is likely, you're asking it as you read this. You're wondering about someone having the cheek, or possibly the arrogance, to write an essay about herself when asked for an essay to inspire. Isn't that immodest? Isn't that unconventional? Isn't that just plain pompous? The answer is -- yes. It's cheeky, it's arrogant, it's immodest, unconventional and just plain pompous. But I'm going to do it anyway, because my essay is about the advantages of being weird. So the subject of the essay has to be weird. And the weirdest thing I know is myself. Which is pretty cool, because all writers, weird or not, say that you write best when you write what you know, and what I know is myself.
So -- why am I weird? The first reason is that I gave up a good, well-paying career in a multinational advertising agency to join a school located somewhere in the boondocks and become, of all things, the librarian there. My colleagues in advertising were seriously whispering about my sanity or the lack thereof at my farewell party. I was dropping down to one-quarter the salary I'd been pocketing, and I was going into a dead-end job to get inky fingered kids interested in books. Those kids now have kids themselves, and some of them have told me how I changed their lives, giving them a hobby they didn't know was so much fun. They read, they write, they act it out, like I taught them to. The rule in my library wasn't 'silence, please', it was 'noise, please'. And the sounds they made in that library, sharing opinions about the books they had read, playing dictionary games and mimicking their favourite characters, apparently still resonate with them. I hope they pass the hobby of reading on to their children, too.
So, upon securing and making a success of the library job, what did I do? Why I quit, of course. That's the weird thing to do, isn't it? I quit to become independent and do my own workshops in reading, creative writing, drama and literary games. Except that, in those days, nobody knew what workshops in reading, creative writing, drama and literary games were. "So she'll get more marks in the English test, if she attends your class?" "She'll probably get less marks," I'd tell the parent. "I teach them to think for themselves, not write to get marks." Even my (late) mother, from whom I inherited my weirdness, had to rein me in at this point. "You do not turn away paying customers by telling them you'll make their kids fare worse in the examinations. It's not a good way to earn money, turning away paying customers." My parents, being weird, continued to support me well into adulthood and middle age. (Confession - Dad still supports me. Hey, I'm his only child.) By being brutally honest about what parents can and cannot expect from my workshops, I've lost customers -- and gained the right to do exactly what I feel children need to stimulate their creativity and self-esteem. I'll cite the example of the shyest, most hesitant student in a Grade VII weekend class volunteering to play the lead role in 'Cinderella' after attending my workshop to impress upon you the wonders it can work when one is true to the needs of students, as against the needs of the system.
Finally, I look weird. I wear big earrings, chunky necklaces, garish shirts, crazy hats -- and I'm usually to be seen carrying a doll or two, even at a swanky party where such things are frowned upon. But hey, I take pictures of those dolls to use in storytelling, and the swanky background gives a great setting for a story about how the other half lives. My friends, bless their patience, have often had to hold on to my dolls in post offices, supermarkets, concert halls and even temples, while I've taken pictures. The only time one of them said 'no' was when the classical singer was soulfully in the midst of a love-song, and I wanted to sneak on stage with my doll and take a pic. These long-suffering friends are resigned to the fact that I don't know the meaning of 'Photoshop'. I think they understand that the genuineness of the real pics that results brings out the best stories.
So. I gave up a good career, turned away customers and continue to do so, drove my friends nuts and continue to do so -- and I'm blissfully happy and content with what I am. I fervently hope you're not bored reading this arrogant, cheeky, pompous essay about myself. But even if you are, you're here, at the end of it, and may I please end by requesting you to try being weird?