on being “weird”

The newly-waxed gym floor is under my feet, net at eye level. It is finally my time to prove I am worthy of my elite position on the freshman volleyball team. My teammate makes the perfect set and I go in, executing all of my highly advanced hitting approaches. I miss the ball completely, all my momentum contributing to the force with which I hit the ground. Shit.

That was the first time in high school I felt my weaknesses exposed.

It was a little awkward to stand out so clearly in such a public setting, but I did not think too much of it. That is sort of my life: doing embarrassing things, laughing and being laughed at — nothing new. In that moment, I realized that, rather than dwelling on my differences and hiding behind a wall of conformity, I should embrace my quirks. I should laugh at myself for eating it in the middle of the gym, not because it is easier than crying, but because it really is funny.

Since that day, I have wanted to embrace who I am. Of course, high school is a hectic time, and not everyone accepts that idea so easily. It took many more embarrassments, heartbreaks and disappointments over the next three enlightening years, but I finally feel like I am at that point.

Life is so much easier if you just love yourself. Let yourself be exactly who are you and just go forth with everything you are, no matter how weird you may be — that is the way to do it. Life has become so beautiful since I have started to wholeheartedly embrace who I am; I now know the people around me love me for who I am, too. I do not have insecurities or self-doubt anymore.

I can actually laugh about my failed attempt at freshman volleyball; it is, honestly, one of my most embarrassing exploits, but I can truly laugh at it now. It has helped make me who I am, if for no other reason than by honing my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.

I am so grateful to have realized the importance of my quirkiness before I embark on my next journey. It is shocking to think that I am about to leave where I live, who I am and how I am; it is wonderful and terrifying. I feel confident, though, that as long as I hold tightly to myself and run from conformity, no matter where I end up, I will not leave who I am.

By Natalie Dunn