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This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, retirees, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, is available by clicking here Amazon.com. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

SnowmanWhat is an outlier? It is an extreme example of something–the farther ends of the spectrum or uncommon within a distinctive category or group.

So what happens if you or someone close to you is an outlier? Are you or yours the fattest, skinniest, most painfully shy, overly high strung, too-smart-for-your-own-good, developmentally disabled, and the like?

For example, a hyperactive child always seems to be the one creating chaos. He/she is soon identified by the group as the troublemaker and becomes shunned, causing distress to the child and its parents.  Such behavior to get attention is the only way that child understands.  The situation escalates resulting in them being ostracized even more, thus setting up a perpetuating cycle.

Being an outlier is particularly hard while growing up.  One can be stamped with derogatory terms that stick for a lifetime such as: geek, wimp, fatso, beanpole, homo, crazy, ugly, stupid, weird and on and on.  The medical profession is complicit in the labeling game.  Although done for “scientific” reasons, diagnoses like: schizophrenic, paranoid, autistic and so forth categorize their recipients and put them in pigeonholes from which it is hard to escape.  These terms affect future treatment, funding, jobs, eligibilities, etc., and follow said recipient throughout their lifetime.

How do you fit into a society that skews toward the middle when you don’t? It’s hard.  You never feel like you belong. You are rejected by the main body of the group. You feel unwelcome, unwanted, unacceptable. Is there a place for you?

It’s not easy to find one’s niche in life.  However, there is usually a community for everyone. You must look for like-minded souls and situations where you feel comfortable. You must seek out your tribe.

How do you go about it? The first step is to figure out what it is about you or yours that makes you or them an outcast from the mainstream. Then, search for people and places where your “thing” is acceptable.

I have always had a loud, projecting voice.  All my life, people have told me to speak more quietly, and the rude ones just show irritation as they bark at me to “shush” while holding their index finger over their lips lest I don’t understand.  The truth is that I don’t even realize when my voice gets loud.  It does so when I’m tense, over-stressed, or tired.  It has become worse as my hearing has deteriorated.  People don’t understand that.  Many just think that I don’t care about their admonition.

I discovered acting eighteen years ago.  Now, I’m lauded for my loud, projecting voice.  Yes, I fit in; my acting group admires my vocal abilities.

To find your kindred folks, you will need terminology to help you navigate. Is your child ADHD? Is your brother morbidly obese? Are you depressed? Is your mother an addictive personality? Yes, these and other painful labels have been thrust upon many, but they are also communication tools to help ferret out and find those who are similar and supportive.

Networking with others helps you learn about opportunities. The library can be a great resource as can the Internet.  Use those labels you’ve always hated to your advantage, and find your clan.


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Photo credit: izzie_whizzie on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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