Becoming A Strange Bird


Valentina Fussell Tom Ford Glasses2 When I was a child I vividly remember vowing to never become "a strange bird."  (Note to Self: Do NOT grow up and do not get WEIRD.)

You know the type.   There is always one in the crowd at holidays or parties.  She is that "freaky old lady" you hear friends and relatives whisper about when she shows up to events in crazy outfits with prints like cheetah and stripes, wears her hair however she wants, and is smeared in lipstick so bright that you could see it coming for a mile before it was planted on your cheek, a glaring reminder left as a tattoo of her greeting.

My Mom's mom was a strange bird... And not a quiet one that sat obediently in a corner, tweeting away the listless days.  She was highly dramatic, spoke wildly with her hands, and had more clothes and jewelry than I ever thought imaginable for one person to own.  (We never unpacked our suitcases when we came to town because every closet and drawer was full in every room of the house!) When we would visit her home, we would stay in "the blue room" or "the green room" and brush our teeth in "the pink bathroom" (complete with a pink toilet, of course.)

My Yiyia Diana was one of the liveliest, rarest, and wildest species I have ever known and while I didn't always understand her as a child, I still ache to sit with her one more time and learn from her tenacity, her boldness, and receive one more of her bright kisses on my cheek.

I think a lot about Yiyia Diana's home and how it really represented her.  It felt wild and carefree and as I begin a new year, I am trying more than ever to embrace that same type of attitude towards my life and my home.

I have spent almost the entirety of my life trying to fit into everyone else's mold, first in my home country, and then in each foreign country we moved to.  I was the professional chameleon and, like everything else I put my mind to, I poured out every ounce of my heart and soul to be the best.

I gave it my all, but ultimately, I failed completely.

You can think of it as being a strange bird, or even a rare bird, but the truth is that every single one of us has something that makes us special.

There are so many cheesy "nuggets of wisdom" that we can find on bumper stickers and pinterest boards, ("Be Yourself.  Everyone else is taken." Gag.  Puke.)  Somedays I wonder if someone wrote all those things to make the freaks feel better about themselves.  "Don't worry, sugar, you ARE special."  (Said with a thick Southern accent, of course.)  And sometimes I wonder if it's all a hoax.  What if this is just someone's way of trying to make us all unhappy with the status quo?  I worry that there isn't a dang special thing about me.  and yet...

These are the things that I believe to be the truth::

1. Every one of us is special and unique.  YOU are special and unique.

2.  I've spent my life trying to be a chameleon and finally realized that I am a bird.  I was meant to fly and to be free.   Don't try to be anything you aren't and if you don't know who you are, take time to find out... before you stop believing that it's possible.

3.  You are reflected in your style.  The backdrops you create around your life are an important part of your identity.  Don't overlook their value!

4.  Don't be strange for the sake of being different.  You don't have to turn into a renegade and wear your underwear on your head to prove that you aren't the same.  You are your greatest asset, so be curious, open, and full of hope for the unique person you were created to be.

4. You will never really know your true self if you spend your life trying to be anything besides what you were meant to be.  It's better to be a strange bird than a chameleon who always fits in.  (The stories people tell about you after you are gone will definitely be cooler!)


Here are a few photos Jack and I shot together of my new glasses, a sure sign of my quick descent into an old, strange bird, for sure!

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Photography :: Jack and Valentina Fussell