I don’t usually watch the Oscars. I lack the patience to wait through the more obscure awards and endless commercials to get to the few moments of substance. But this year, I was recovering from the flu and it sounded like a great idea to veg on the couch after a fun-filled, yet tiring, vacation week with the kids.
My husband and I really enjoy watching movies and we have seen a fair number of those nominated for Oscars this year. We especially liked “The Imitation Game” and we were happy to see it win for Best Adapted Screenplay. But when the screenwriter, Graham Moore, took the podium to give his acceptance speech, it took my appreciation for this movie and it’s writer to a whole new level.
“I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.”
I just love that. I love that in the midst of Hollywood’s elite, he was willing to be vulnerable and authentic and take his moment to shine and use it to encourage others. To encourage those who may be hiding in shame or sorrow, feeling like they don’t measure up to society’s standards. Giving them hope that life can be different and good for them one day.
I love that the world is awarding him for educating us through his screenplay about the life of Alan Turing. A man who saved millions of lives during World War II, yet tragically ended his own life in shame and suffering for being different. A reminder to us that we need to treat others with compassion and kindness, even if we don’t understand them.
I love that there was a room full of beautiful and talented people who probably spent a number of years feeling the same way Alan and Graham felt. My guess is that most of them went through a dark period of self-doubt before they had success. An Essence article recorded 2014 Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o talking about how she would pray each night for God to change the color of her skin when she was a young girl. God did not answer her prayer, yet now she is celebrated as one of the most beautiful and talented women in the world.
Her beauty and talent emanate a certain confidence. And that confidence is a choice. She could have listened and believed the voices around her as a young girl that told her she wasn’t good enough, or beautiful enough. Instead, she found inspiration in others who had gone before her, like Oprah and Alek Wek. Those who had risked being different. Risked being unique. Risked being weird. They stayed true to themselves.
I admit, I fall prey to society’s standards. I want to be well-liked. I want to be successful. I want to be attractive. I want my kids to be all those things too. And in my striving to achieve those things, I can forget about how wonderful it is to be unique. To be weird. I was created to be me, and only me. I need to stop comparing and striving, and to relax into being myself.
A few weeks ago, my son was “Star of the Week” for school. We ended up finishing his poster the night before it was due. We had a hard time finishing it earlier because he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grows up. But there was a line there that needed to be filled out. “When I grow up, I want to be _____________.” And it really bugged me that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, come up with an answer.
I tried giving him suggestions, like, “How about a professional tennis player?”. He had said that was what he wanted to be at his kindergarten graduation the year before, and it was really cute. I told him I wouldn’t hold him to his answer, he could say whatever he wanted and he could change his mind the next day. But he held firm and got really upset. He emphatically declared he didn’t want to be anything when he grew up. He just wanted to be a person. Well, I wasn’t going to let him put that lame answer down. How about any answer but that answer? We settled on writing down “a soccer player”.
A couple of weeks later, when I was having dinner with a friend who is a psychologist and an older, wiser woman, she helped me realize the error in my thinking. I was recounting the story with Evan because I was worried about his lack of motivation and understanding of how the world worked. And she gently, but firmly, corrected me. She told me she thought that was the smartest answer to that question that she had ever heard.
Who knows what they want to be when they grow up? Most people don’t, especially at age 7. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Now, I’m not criticizing people who ask that question, or kids who do “know” what they want to be when they grow up. But I need to be ok with my kid not knowing. For choosing to be an independent thinker and not conform to the expected answer. I want him to discover what he really loves to do, and to do it to the best of his abilities. If it turns out he wants to be weird, then I will let him be weird.
“… what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.” — Lupita Nyong’o