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Suspicious skepticism: “Can you join them in good conscience?”

Surprise: “We’d love to have you, but will you be happy here?”

Confusion: “It’s so uncomfortable to hear so many much with which I disagree, but should I only go where I’m comfortable?”

The odd ball. The ugly duckling. The round peg surrounded by square holes. One of these things is not like the others. Choose your own analogy.

It’s our natural inclination to seek and associate with what is similar to us. We associate with those of the same skin color, traditions, language, religion, politics, or professional sporting team. Relating to people is easy when we have obvious common ground. Comfortable. Expected.

When someone dares defy this convention, we don’t know what to think. We are suspicious of their motives, surprised to see someone different show up, confused.

Why would you willingly subject yourself to us and our different ways of looking, living, thinking, and believing? What are you trying to do? Is this some sort of Trojan horse plot to subvert us? Are you an enemy spy, working for that most terrifying of evil powers – The Different?

Sometimes we turn on them. This is OUR space, how dare you show up with your Otherness – your so very different skin/hair/accent/vocabulary, your strange traditions, your brazen fashion sense, your offensive foods and drinks, your foreign ideas about how to organize ourselves and do good?

I’ve been all of these – the skeptic, cynic, conspiracy theorist, fearful copier of the status quo, the new girl, the ignorant stranger to my own culture, the intrepid odd-girl-out choosing for her own good reasons to go into a group into which I will neither try to change nor assimilate into.

Each of those girls has their shadow side. When I was girl with the cares-too-much-about-other-people’s-opinions shackles around my ankle, other people’s opinions drowned out my own identity. I played it safe, stuffed the I’m only just now figuring out what makes ME tick, gets me fired up or ecstatic or passionate, and who I am. The girl with the aqua hair. Who likes strategy and bringing people together and finding common ground and making things better and helping people feel heard. Who still cares, even though she’s trying really hard to discern her own unique calling out of all the competing voices out there.

I’m just a different kind of same as you.