Being different can be very hard. When you’re different, a lot of people pick on you by calling you names, snubbing you, making”jokes” that are really meant to hurt you. When you think about it, this is because they are afraid of you. They are thinking: “Is he different because he is better than I am and will make me look like a fool? or, “Is she different because she knows more that I do about life, or how to live, and when I show that I don’t know as much as she does I’ll look stupid?” Or they are thinking, “This new person is so strange that I do not know how they will act or react. Will they suddenly lash out and hurt me? Or will I hurt them somehow because I don’t know about them, and will stupidly say or do something I don’t know how to control?’
In other words, when you are different you have an interesting tightrope to walk: on the one hand, you have to look and act enough like everyone else that you don’t scare them, yet on the other hand, if you make yourself just like everyone else, you cease being who you are.
Think of the famous people in history whether inventors, actors, statesmen or the ones that helped other people, like doctors or nurses. Very often, they become famous because they have done something special or unusual, but often they say they didn’t do anything special at all. They think that anyone would have figured out how to make that new thing work, act that part, solve that crisis or save that person’s life. The reason is because they are just being their real selves. They aren’t worrying about what others think! They are just doing what they know how to do.
So the more you learn how to be good at being yourself and you’re being too busy being a caring person, the less you worry about what other people think and the more likely you will succeed at being different.
The next time you throw something in the trash, think for a moment why you aren’t buried under leaves. Seems silly, right? But really, all trees shed their leaves, even the evergreens as they grow new branches. All the billions of trees in all the world for all the time the Earth has existed. All those leaves! What happened to them? Why did they go away instead of burying everyone and everything? Even though dead leaves get thin and dry and crackly, or brown and break easily, that just means that all of those dead leaves would pile up, only they’d be dust, and really get into everything.
It’s because of the microbes: the little, tiny bacteria and very small creatures that eat leaves after they’ve fallen from the tree. When they are up in the tree, a lot of things eat them: deer, caterpillars, moths, sloths and even horses now and then. And some animals use dead leaves to build their nests. But they eat the living leaves. It’s the microbe’s job to get rid of the dead leaves that no one else could eat, or use.
Now, microbes are very tiny, and they can’t eat big things. And they can’t do things that are too difficult: they can’t eat metal, or plastic or anything like tin foil wrappers. So, when you throw something with metal or plastic in it: the old toy you’re tired of, the shiny wrapper on your food bar or a straw, fork or container from your fast-food lunch, thing: what’s a microbe to do? Microbes can eat paper, yes, and cardboard. But plastic, metal and worse things like polystyrene (the white foamy cups some people drink how liquids in) are way beyond any microbe’s ability to digest.
So, plastic straws and utensils, foam cups and little metal or plastic cars, just take up space in the earth. Metal, at least, rusts and goes away eventually. But plastic hangs around, because it’s not at all like leaves: microbes can’t make it go away.
If you like, you can try an experiment: choose three days, either the three days of a long weekend, three days in summer when you don’t have school, or one day in each of three weekends. On the first day, try to see everything that is wrong in your world, whatever it is. What don’t you like? What irritates you or makes you angry? You do have to be careful just to notice things: this experiment will not work if you suddenly decide that your brother is an impossible, stinky mess and he is the biggest reason why things are wrong in your world, or that your sister is a mean, horrid person who only thinks of herself.
If you think of other people like that, you start blaming them, and you can’t move forward! No, just watch yourself seeing what’s wrong with your life, or what’s uncomfortable, or just not good enough. That’s all. You’re not trying to fix any of these things, you just pay attention. And then at the end of the day, make some notes about what kind of a day it was.
On the next day, look at all the things that don’t bother you. They’re not happy things, or exciting or excellent things, they’re just things. Walking to school, or turning in your homework, or eating dinner: just pay attention to those things that dim;y are: you can think about being able to breathe, and walk, and talk, and sit in the chair, or whatever. Not special things, but again, at the end of the day take some time to write out your notes of what kind of a day it was.
On the third day, watch out for everything good. Even if the only good thing you seen in the whole day is that there were bees in the clover in the grass near the school, or that there was a particularly nice sunset, or that you almost dropped something, but you didn’t
Again, pay attention the whole day, and then take notes. Or course you will notice a difference! But why? Was it because of what happened in the day, or because of how you thought about it?
Sometimes when things are going badly, or there are too many things going on that you don’t know what to do about, you need to get yourself still inside and drag your mind away from being anxious and worried. You can be afraid of something, yes: fear is a warning, something that tells you something is wrong, or too big or too much for you to deal with and it very wisely tells you to run, hide, or at least get out of the way of the bad or scary things.
But feeling anxious is like feeling afraid of your own thoughts! You think, “But what if…” or, “But what about….” or, “What will they do?” This is your mind putting itself into the future. You cannot do anything in the future now. Sure you can prepare for things: if you know that you’ll have a math test, you can study and work at learning the material, ask for help and so on: this is using the present to save trouble in the future. This is being very wise.
But if you let your fear turn into anxiety, you are trying to change something that hasn’t happened yet! And you can’t do than any more than you can eat tomorrow’s breakfast now. You could never do that and it would be silly to try. So, you can work your good against your future-fears at the same time you can tell yourself it’s silly to try to eat tomorrow’s breakfast now. (Raiding the cupboard and eating tomorrow’s cereal doesn’t count: that’s just cheating, and besides, that wouldn’t be breakfast: it would just be a snack you stole.)
You work your good by breathing several long, deep breaths, and thinking: “I am breathing. I am breathing and nothing is hurting me right now. I am breathing and because nothing is hurting me right now, I am safe right now. Because I am breathing and I am safe right now, I can think about what is making me anxious as though it were a story about someone else.” And when you can do that, you can find solutions!