Friday, May 20, 2011

Embracing Your Inner Black Sheep

I think I can safely say I am a black sheep.

I tend to make my own drum beat, so to speak, and have for as long as I can remember. When other kids in my high school were out drinking and partying, I was at home, writing. When other girls were decorating their rooms with posters of Def Leppard or Johnny Depp, my room was full of romantic Victorian paintings and lacy curtains. I eschewed sports in high school for the spring play. I was the only girl drummer in band (see? I really DID make my own drum beat...).  My parents weren't the enemy, and I actually liked my two brothers. In fact, I loved hanging out with my family, and would even stay weekends at my grandma and grandpa's place just because I wanted to.

Trends? Never cared for 'em. Oh, there was that time I begged my mom for a pair of Pepe jeans (remember those?), but only wore them once or twice. I really didn't care about labels. Appearances didn't (and still don't) matter that much. Don't get me wrong - I take care of myself. But I don't have to wear designer clothes, take two hours to fix my hair and make-up, and freak out if I break a nail. It doesn't bother me a bit to go to work with *gasp* no make-up. There's absolutely nothing wrong with those who do these things. I'm just not one of them.

Being the black sheep, or what I like to call doing your own thing, has always been my modus operandi. Luckily, I found a man who operates the same way I do, and it looks like our daughter is following in our footsteps.

Another non-conformist! (my daughter)
My daughter doesn't watch cable t.v. (we don't even have it). She loves Hogan's Heroes and As Time Goes By (a British comedy starring Judi Dench). She still plays with her toys, reads constantly, draws, plays on her tire swing, and is incredibly witty. She could care less about being "popular", doesn't really know what the latest fad is, and is most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. She isn't in sports or any other extracurricular activities (except for her art lessons) outside of school. This is her choice, and I respect it. I've asked her if she wanted to do other activities and she has no desire to. She is just fine socially, has very close friends, and is a happy, healthy child. And to tell you the truth, I am ok with her choosing to spend her time in other ways. We're not running around every other night to some activity or other.

As a family, we spend a lot of time together as much as possible. We take occasional road trips, love to go to the library and the bookstore, ride our bikes together, take walks, or just hang out and watch a movie.

My husband and I are introverts. We are not into crowds and being involved in lots of extracurricular activities. We truly enjoy each other's company. We're not the type to entertain, and we don't have a wide circle of friends. We don't golf, we don't belong to any exclusive clubs, and we really enjoy hanging out at home. We have our small circle of friends and that's ok by us.

I don't think any of us - my daughter, my husband, or I - ever planned to intentionally be this way. I didn't wake up one morning and think, I'm going to be different than everybody else. Being a bit of a non-conformist is just the way I'm wired. Now this is not to say that I don't conform to certain things because I do.

What do I do instead of "following the crowd"?
I write. I take long walks. I watch old movies. I read history books. I play Littlest Pet Shop with my daughter. I go to antique stores. I visit the Veterans Memorial Garden here in town and cry. I wear comfy clothes and t-shirts. I put my hair in a ponytail and don't wear make-up all weekend. I listen to Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman and Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I also listen to Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi (this began in junior high!). I collect vintage magazines. I don't drive a fancy car, nor do I want to. I don't live in a fancy house, just a cute little Cape Cod with plenty of squirrels, rabbits, and birds to keep me company. I like old things, and old people! I'm more comfortable talking to a gal like Mary Lou or my own grandmother, both in their 80s, than I do someone my own age.
I like to think that being a black sheep gives me my own unique view of the world, one that I strive to bring to my writing. I don't write blockbuster novels, and I don't ever really care if I end up on the New York Times bestseller list. I write the stories --I-- want to write and --I-- want to read. Otherwise, why spend my time writing at all?
In fact, I would say that my characters are usually black sheep, too. They, like me, have their own way of doing things, their own way of looking at the world, and it often gets them into trouble. But also like me, my characters aren't about to give up who they are just for the sake of conformity.
Let's face it. If we're the creative type, we all have a little bit of black sheep in us. We're all willing to do something different, something daring or new, something that goes against the grain. And thank goodness. The world would be a dull, empty place if we all thought the same, wrote the same, took the same pictures, painted the same pictures.

Are you embracing your inner black sheep? Are you truly being the person you want to be? Are you letting the true you shine through in your creative work, whether it be painting or photography or writing?
If not, it's time to let that black sheep out to play!
To thine own self be true. Let this be your modus operandi.


  1. You go, girl. You're "owning" that inner black sheep.

    I agree with so much of what you say here, and think that to be creative, we have to step out of the box and bring our own unique perspective to the page.

    And kudos to you and your family for embracing home and family time. We're the same way, always have been. Home is where the heart is ...

  2. I love being my own person and not following the crowd. My son teased me recently and said, "Do your friends know you're a geek who writes in a shed?" Cheeky devil. It's true though and I'm happy being this way.

    I remember Pepe jeans and love watching When Time Goes By, it's a great show.

  3. There is so much here that is true for me-so much I can relate to and identify with, that all I can say is-from one black sheep to another; Baaaaa!

    Great and well written post Melissa!

  4. Holy cow I think you and I might be sisters separated at birth.

    This could be me writing this - all the way down to the daughter who also does her own thing.

    I love independence, although I admit I often made choices BECAUSE it was not the popular or fashionable thing, which sometimes worked out great and other times was less daring than just making my life harder. :)

  5. Joanne - Home is indeed where the heart is! Our family absolutely loves hanging out at home. We have to be careful, though, otherwise we're liable to become hermits! And yes...I definitely think we need to think out of the box in our creative endeavors. I think there is a lot of pure joy to be found in discovering our unique talents. :-)

    Valerie - I truly think you are the sister I never had. :-)

    Heidi - Yay! Another black sheep! I think it's very interesting how those of us in the creative field are so much more independent than others. I love my independence, too. :-)

  6. So very true! We should be true to ourselves more often. I've been embracing my inner black sheep. It's time to!

    I have tagged you on my blog today, do drop by when you can. And, Happy Friday!

  7. Talei - Yay for you! :-) Will drop by your blog, too. Thanks!

  8. You could be describing my own life! Other than I have not found the right guy yet, but the rest... very very similar. I am very comfortable in my own skin, doing my own thing the way I want. Peer pressure has never been something I caved to, and I am a happy woman with my writing and family!

  9. DK - I love finding so many kindred spirits! Being happy in our own skin is so important. I'm still working on being happy in my PHYSICAL skin, though...that seems to be harder!

  10. Me too. So much of what you've written here sounds familiar to me! What you said about your daughter also reminds me of my youngest sister. She's ten years old and she's just all little girl. She has no conception of pop culture; she quotes Dickens and is currently reading a copy of Louisa May Alcott's Little Men to shreds; she loves writing and drawing and playing with her toy farm and horses.

    I think one area where I'm definitely a black sheep is cars. I've never been excited about learning to drive like most kids seem to be - I still don't have my license! I'm simply indifferent.

  11. Such a great post...and sounds so familiar. I quit a full-time career to write, our cars are old, so is the house, I have almost no interest in shopping and none in makeup (can do it when I have to, otherwise forget it.) Thankfully I found a guy who gets me, and I get him. I was never happier than when I realized I was different--and decided to embrace it. Good for you and your daughter for keeping true to yourselves!

  12. Elisabeth - I love that your little sister quotes Dickens! I think she'd make a wonderful character in a novel. ;-)

    Christine - Oh, if I never had to wear makeup, I'd be a happy girl. And it is so important to have a significant other who understands us...makes life a lot easier!


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