For My Daughter

This doesn't have a lot to do with running, except for the fact that most runners that I know are a little different. I wrote it for my daughter. She came home after school today crying because she has been teased a lot lately for not really fitting in. I wanted to post it here because it may help other parents or kids deal with the same situation. Thanks for reading.

Be different.

That is the only advice I can give you. That's the best I can do when you come home crying because your classmates tease you mercilessly for not knowing some TV show, or not knowing a certain singer; a show and a singer that nobody will know a few months from now. They will have moved on to the next pop princess stuck together by executives in tall buildings with spotless windows, reflecting everything that is bright, allowing no creativity through the concrete and steel filter, allowing just enough edge to appeal to the teen girls, just enough sugar-coated filth to sneak past the already checked out and glazed over parents.

Be different from them. Focus on those differences, the ones that make you smart, loving, and beautiful. Keep the part of you that is not afraid to hold my hand on the way to school, and not embarrassed to put your arm around your younger brother and walk him to class.

You shine. We don't have the 100s of channels, and we don't listen to every Katy Gaga Bieber Bruno mash of hair and makeup and soulless singles, mainly because I just can't stomach them. Part of me wants to hand you the remote control, or give you full access to the computer and let you go at it, catch up to the cruel kids who belittle everything that doesn't match the paper cut-out. The other part of me, the part that wins, loves coming home and seeing you curled up with a book, devouring the words, writing stories, and begging me to let you stay up a little later to finish the Origami documentary, amazed at the math, engineering, and poetry that goes into the simple and immensely complex art of folding paper. I could listen to you sing all day, and I'm not really sorry that you are singing the words of some unknown hip-hop artist, one that your classmates will tease others about in a few years. I'm not really sorry, but it kills me.

I went through it, too. I was the kid who took violin lessons through elementary school and junior high and I know what it's like to feel the shame of sticking out. I had to walk to the high school after school, so I had to carry that violin case with me all day, ignoring the comments. I was so happy when my mom told me that we couldn't afford lessons anymore, and she was so sad because I was just getting good, playing in an orchestra, moving my way up through the second violin section to the first violins. My teacher said that I showed a lot of promise, but I didn't really care that much. I just wanted to fit in. I wish, more than anything, that I had stuck it out, held on to that skill because now every time I hear a beautiful piece of music, it is tinged with the dull regret of lost opportunity.

When they call you gullible, hold on to that as it is one of the greatest compliments you can receive at your age. You are trusting, innocent, and open. You believe what people tell you, without the cynicism of those that have grown up too fast and try to trick you. Keep that as long as you can.

Focus on what makes you different, because that is what makes you amazing. The people who make fun of you now and try to fit in at all costs are working on what makes them boring and their boring will increase as they get older, go to a boring college, go to boring parties with other boring people, eat a bunch of boring food, get a boring job where they fit in with boring co-workers and a boring boss, marry a boring spouse, have a couple of boring kids. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. The boring circle of life with the dad dressed in a starched white shirt and a neutral tie, holding the baby above his head as the instrumental song plays nearly imperceptibly in the background and someone whispers he has his mom's grayish bluish eyes.

I know it's hard, and that the hands that grasp at your feet are strong, but rise above it and be different. Be the amazing, talented, funny, emotional, beautiful, and smart you, and know that what makes you different now, and what others tease you about is going to make you great.

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