There has always been a reason to feel different. When I was five we moved to Louisiana, and it was my strange Alabama accent--the way I said "niiiight". When I was nine it was my light skin and freckles in a land of dark skinned beauties when we moved to India. I was also left-handed, which was taboo there. After several months had passed and my home-schooling materials still had not arrived, the "she is different" list grew again.
I ended up moving to southern India to live with another family in order to go to a private school there. This family was a logical choice. They had two daughters around my age and an infant son. The parents were very kind. The girls were not. I shared the infant's bedroom and cried myself to sleep every night for three months.
We moved around many times during my childhood. By the time I was in the seventh grade, we had left India, returned to the States for a year, and then moved to Bangkok, Thailand. I was convinced that making friends was a useless endeavor, because leaving was certainly in the near future. So I made my parents and myself miserable that year, refusing even to try to fit in.
Thankfully, there was a small group (comparatively) of other youth who were just like me. We were foreigners. We were Christians. Our parents were missionaries. And I began to trust. I think perhaps that is one reason why I hold the memories I made during the five years we lived in Thailand (although we moved houses four times, my friends remained) as some of the most precious. I went to an International High School where "being different" was the norm! Everyone who attended that school was different from the native Thai people. It was exciting every year to see the new faces of students who had just moved there from different lands. My graduating class had 108 students from 21 different countries.
Then in 1989, I graduated and returned to the States---and was bombarded with change again. Now I was surrounded by people who looked like me, but certainly didn't think like me, or even sound like me with their thick southern accents. I moved to a place where everyone in the town had lived there their whole lives.
Those scars of feeling left out run deep. It has molded my character into one whose greated fear is rejection, and whose greatest desire is to belong. But it has also allowed me to build an inner strength, to know that I can overcome challenges, be successful, reach goals, if I work hard enough. I don't have to rely on others to do it for me. I love my family and certainly appreciate my friends. I have now lived in the same town for almost twenty years. I have roots here, and while there are still times when my world-view clashes with the consensus, and those demons of being unloved rear their heads, I have built a life.
I have also realized that everyone is different. It sounds cliche, but really it's true. Our personal stories, our hopes and dreams, our struggles and defeats make us unique individuals. So rather than ostracize those differences, we should embrace them.