“Fitting In”: What TWD Taught Me Last Night (Forget)

Last night was the first time I’d watched my favorite TV show in nearly two weeks. And I learned something very important in the episode Forget: I’m like Daryl, and I’m like Carol.

I “don’t fit in” and I am “invisible”

But those are good things……

For the past two years, I’d been watching the show while blogging about it and interacting with like-minded fans on fan and spoiler sites. One site I connected with even gave me my own board, Teaching the Dead, in which I analyzed episodes and themes in the series. A few months later, they made me a moderator, giving me the responsibility of ensuring the site ran smoothly and without conflict.  My episode analysis were picked up by other entertainment outlets and even  (apparently) read by cast members and I spent countless hours behind the scenes making sure debates in the threads ran smoothly.  I was thriving, doing what I’m good at doing, and loving what I’m doing…..

Then last week, I was demoted. I was stripped of my mod duties.

The reasons for my fall were two-fold: because my work was so proactive it appeared on paper as if I was “on the sidelines” concerning my duties, and also apparently I didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the staff.

As silly as it sounds, these reasons, especially the later, hit me to the core. I was transported into the movie “Mean Girls” or my high school years as the class nerd. Not “fit in?” Well, that’s something I’ve been told my entire life. When I was in high school, it was the reason I got nasty notes in locker or messages written on my desk or was cornered in the girls’ locker room. In work, it was the reason that after three attempts over six years, I still couldn’t elevate myself to head of a department. In my personal life, it was why I couldn’t feel comfortable having conversations about simple things like child rearing or wedding planning.

I just didn’t fit in.

That’s not to say I’m not friendly, or outgoing. It’s just to say that my experiences, my thoughts, my beliefs, whatever, made it hard for others to see me as one of them. Eventually, I came to the point that I stopped trying to make people like me, and I just did my best to be a hard worker, a kind person, and non combative. If they accepted me, or listened to me, great, if not, I was comfortable in my own skin, even if it made me “different” from the herd.

But, last week, the face of conformity once again reared it’s ugly head. I didn’t “fit in.” And I lost something that meant a lot to me – an outlet for intellectual discourse, a hobby, something I was good at – my “fan board.” I couldn’t talk about the show for a week, and I refused to watch it. Students were shocked when Monday morning I didn’t start class with “Did you see the Walking Dead last night?!” Kids stopped me in the hallways and asked what I thought of the episode, and I was unable to respond. Even my husband tried to encourage me: “Don’t let them take away something you love.” But it felt dead to me. I was the walking dead.

Finally, my husband in fact convinced me to watch the show again last night. It was hard for me. Very hard. I teared up as the theme music played. But I sat, and I watched.

And suddenly, the words of comfort came not from my husband, or my mother, or my students, but from Aaron, as he hunted with Daryl outside the walls of the Safe Zone. Aaron, the homosexual character who just made his appearance a few episodes before, was able to pinpoint Daryl’s avoidance of the community and the source of his pain:

“You feel like you don’t fit in. People are afraid of you. They are afraid of me too, but for different reasons…..”

Aaron went on to discuss how Daryl and the rest of the Grimes family are having difficulties in the new community – they don’t fit in. They have been “out there” for so long that they have different views, feelings, and experiences that the residence of Alexandria, a community that has been in a bubble for most of the outbreak, cannot possibly understand. Exchanging recipes and target practice on a chained walker are required for “fitting in” but after what the crew has lived through, they are more focused on survival, strengthening the walls, and creating a schedule of surveillance. Residence try to help them fit in, but it’s not possible when the experiences they have encountered are so vastly different.

However, that is exactly the reason that Rick’s group was sought out to join the community. The reasons they don’t fit in are exactly the reasons they are unique and can provide new knowledge, skills, and insight into the stagnant bubble of a community. Their uniqueness is needed, sought, and necessary in order for the town to survive. They don’t fit in because no one can understand what they’ve been through, but it’s what they have been through that makes them essential to the community.

It then occurred to me – I’m like Daryl, and everyone in Rick’s group. I don’t “fit in” but perhaps the reason I don’t fit in is because I stand out.

My experiences, my talents, and my beliefs make me unique, and it is that uniqueness that makes me special. My lessons are  sought after by other teachers, my episode analysis inspire other entertain blogs, and I can say I did my wedding completely on my own. My experiences are unique, and that uniqueness makes people utilize me, quote me, or be inspired by me. I am valuable.

Aaron helped Daryl see he was special, too. He saw that Daryl had keen tracking skills and great insight into the difference between “good and bad” people. Those are what made Daryl valuable to the community and prompted Aaron to offer him a job as a recruiter. Daryl and the rest of Rick’s group offer unique insight into the community that can make it safer and more functional, even if right now they feel like outsiders and are misunderstood by well-meaning townspeople.

I guess it’s OK to be misunderstood, because it means something about that person is “great” (with apologies to Mr. Emerson). Perhaps even greater than what others can see now. And maybe, just maybe, for me it means I’m meant for greater things, or as Rick said, to “take over” the place. It may “scare” them, but it can inspire them as well.

Just as Aaron showed me I’m like Daryl, Carol showed me in a more subtle way that I am like her.

“Invisible.”

Carol make heavy work behind the scenes, slipping away because she felt she wouldn’t be noticed to secretly retrieve weapons for the group. She is working her magic to look like everyone else so she work covertly to help Rick plan a take over. In many ways, I do invisible work as well. I work behind the scenes, covertly, whether it is to help students find their own potential, to help other teachers refine their lessons, to help administration plan PDD activities, or to help a fan board run smoothly. These are supports that cannot be measured by state exams, or activity logs. They are quiet, but deliberate, and yield results that cannot be quantified. To help a student uncover their potential, or to stop an argument in a post before it becomes a problem is silent work, invisible work, that is rarely traced back to the originator. Even the invisible, however, are eventually noticed, because once their presence is not longer felt, there is an absence, almost like no longer being able to feel the wind. Carol’s absence was noticed because her cookies were such a stand out and so her invisibility was seen after all. Greatness cannot be totally hidden, even when someone is trying to work behind the scenes.

I prefer to work behind the scenes, letting my skills be used to support others. I don’t shout, “lookie what I did,” I don’t seek praise, I don’t brag. I just hope, like Carol, my invisibility will be noticed as the author of the script.

And so I owe the writers of TWD a great deal of gratitude for creating situations and characters that I can relate to, and I owe fate for playing an episode with a message I needed on a day that I needed it.

I am “great.” I am “unique” and I am bound for more, even if, right now, I appear to not fit in, or I look invisible.

See me. I’m here. And I’m OK with not fitting in if that means I conform, or I don’t stand out, or I’m not unique or valuable. If it’s OK with Daryl, or Carol, or Rick’s family, then it’s OK with me.

“To be great is to be misunderstood.” – Emerson

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