On at least two separate occasions, a friend of mine has told me that I “march to the beat of a different drum.”  Both times, I’ve resisted the pursuit of whether this was intended as complimentary or otherwise.  Mainly, this is because I have realized that I no longer care about the intended purpose when I hear things like this.   Granted, it may be easier since I doubt very much that my friend would say anything to intentionally hurt me.  Nevertheless, instead of defaulting to deciding it was derogatory, I took it as an objective statement of fact.

And I took some pride in it as well.

So much of my teenage and early adult years have been about marching in lock-step with others around me, albeit superficially.  There are plenty of reasons for this – most of them deal in some way with the blind ferocity with which I approached my then-church. This time of my life, from which I am emerging, was about blending into the crowd, playing each beat where it was expected and where each was much less noticed (imagine playing in a band where one person played notes where they weren’t expected).

Much changed when I realized my quest to blend in was becoming altogether detrimental.  I have a voice, a perspective on life, an approach to the everyday that is my own.  It has to be. I have to be.  Stepping out meant breaking step with the rhythm that I had known and had formed me.

The disorientation that I felt even when just considering that I needed to change the course of my life was overwhelming.  Much like leaving a subwoofer-endowed room, the beats that seem to pound your chest until your heart submitted and synchronized, the residual beats would often ring through. It would neither be easy nor always pleasant.  I also knew it was precisely the right thing to do.

Finding that my voice is my own and not merely an echo of a higher-up has been more liberating than any metaphor can justify.  Finding that voice to be informed, loving, graceful and accepting is surprising; near miraculous some would argue.

I’ve also discovered a vitality in the process, a rekindling of the belief that there is movement beneath the superficial waves of life that is more conducted than dictated, that there is more to explore than what can be seen or read or heard.  Encounters with food and friends are sacred.  Resources enable generosity more than they can provide comfort.  Those that remain in lock step (willingly or not) are people too, they are voices in their own right, that can be heard when listened to closely enough.

I don’t crave being different.  I don’t carry the tattoos or piercings or style that all non-conformists seem to carry.  My offbeat-ness is not about confronting “the man” or making a statement.

My offbeat-ness is who I am, the feelings I was created to have, the words and thoughts I was created to express.  My offbeat-ness is my voice being amplified over the noise; I now realize my voice has both value and an appropriate place.  My offbeat-ness is a recognition of what I truly value about life.  My offbeat-ness is a pursuit.

It’s who I am.