Leaving the Realm of the Average

I am in-between houses.

The kitchen at the new place is missing a few important things.

We have started moving things into the new place, but we are still living in the old place.

I am in-between in a deeper sense as well.

In the language of social anthropology, I am in a liminal phase, a transitional period between outward personas, an inner transformation reflected in the move from a modern suburban development with matching neighbors to an older, quirky, custom-built house.

I spent my young adult life struggling to fit into a model of the world I had absorbed through my years of schooling. That model involved a lot of applying myself to other people’s goals and working hard to appear normal, getting a good job and putting in the hours behind a desk to earn the paycheck that would allow me to become a useful consumer.

But, those goals were never mine.

Since leaving legal practice in 2000, I have been on a quest to rediscover my values and build a life that reflects me in my full glory. My return to writing and a life centered in creativity and play was part of this quest.

Parenting my challenging children has forced me to confront the pressures I yielded to as a child that I should have avoided. By choosing to homeschool at least some of my children, I have created an opportunity to pass different messages on to my children. The literature that is helping me understand my extremely bright children is helping me understand myself.

Last year, the demands of my novel and the self-awareness triggered by learning how to help my children came together and cracked my persona, and I haven’t put things back together yet. I don’t know what I am growing into; I only know some of the elements my next persona must acknowledge.

The new house is part of my growth. We rationalize the move by saying we need an additional bedroom and that the kids need more outdoor space, but a deeper truth is that my soul cries out for the quirks of a custom-built house.

After hiding in plain sight for years, I am standing up and saying to the world, “I am an outlier.”

Light breaking through

I don’t remember ever not being aware that I was out of the range of normal. In Kindergarten, I spent most of the year reading by the coat cubbies while my classmates learned the alphabet. That was also the year I gave up my English accent so I didn’t sound strange to my American classmates.

I learned about bell-curves when my class-mates accused me of “breaking the curve.” I learned about percentiles in 3rd grade when the doctor referred to my height as 105th percentile; my mother gave me a math lesson during the drive home. By 6th grade, I was taller than most of my teachers. And the stories of my struggles against gender-stereotypes deserve a blog post of their very own – or maybe a series of posts.

For too many years, I saw being different as being bad. But it isn’t. It  is just different.

I’m not sure where all this is going. I’m sure it will show up in my writing.

I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride.

8 thoughts on “Leaving the Realm of the Average

  1. I’m here for the ride! SITS 31 days challenge will be great to get to know you better.

  2. I love the retro look of your cabinets! Good on ya, mate! (Yes, I probably watch too much BBCAmerica).

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Is there such a things as too much BBC America? I would say it wasn’t possible, but it was trending away from the programmes I watched most happily when we left the states, and now I can’t get BBC America, so I have no idea what is on the schedule.

      I love those cabinets, too. Though we have to take down the ones on top of the fridge to get a modern size appliance in the space.

  3. Patrick Ross says:

    Wow, Kate, this is a really beautiful post. Kudos for sharing yourself this way. I can tell you’ve been reflecting some on the genre of memoir, although with references to social anthropology, it also hints of a classic personal essay.

    I like that reference, actually. I wasn’t aware of that term, “liminal phase.” I need to learn more about it. I’m in a transitional point in my life, but I don’t know to what extent that involves personas. I’ll share an anecdote that you may find comforting or perhaps annoying: At a creativity conference a few months ago, a leader of a workshop on how to tell your own story asked how many of us were in a transition phase in our life. Every single one of the 60 or so people in the room raised their hands. Now I’m sure there was a self-selection process here; they’re at a creativity conference (check) and they’re learning to tell their own story (check) and that suggests they won’t be afraid to raise their hands (check). Still, I found it comforting to think that perhaps transition is an aspect of the personal condition, at least among those who are intellectually curious.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      I don’t think I’ll end up in memoir. With my need to reflect on everything from an intellectual perspective in addition to telling stories, personal essay is the obvious genre for me to settle in, but I want to explore the use of memoir techniques to dig into some of the areas of my history that I need to engage with emotionally, but prefer to think about intellectually so I can avoid reliving periods of pain and suffering. But, that experience of pain and suffering is the heart of the stories I most want to tell, so I need to get past the rational veneer.
      The story about the conference is interesting. Certainly the context of the conference would be self-selecting for people in transition. I suspect, also, that creative people in general are more conscious than average of the fact that life doesn’t fit neatly into boxes, categories, eras, etc.
      One of many favourite phrases is that the only constant is change. Some people find that idea frightening. For me, it reminds me that I am alive.


  4. […] I was 5 and I was hiding myself to fit in. It is a habit I am still trying to break. […]

  5. […] is calling out to be transformed into a home that truly reflects who we are as a family. It is a unique house, perfect for a nonconformist family – and we are all nonconformists in this family. I speaks […]

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