The new semester brings low iron-gray skies, sub-zero weather, and all-new classes.

Although I’m generally twitchy, not to mention easily bored by routine, I don’t really want things to end. (History. I don’t want history to end.)

Now, I have Intermediate Drawing, Intermediate Ceramics, and American Literature. Never let it be said that I overexert myself.

Drawing is absolutely the best part of my day, because I share a drafting table with Dill and we spend most of the period giving each other goofy, sardonic looks and screwing around with the stencil set.

American Lit. is the worst, because Irish was supposed to have it with me, but he’s still not back from his administration-imposed exile, and it’s starting to look like he might be gone for good. Also, I really, really wish I had another class with #4. But I don’t.

So January is bleak, chilly, and generally disappointing—but survivable.

In the morning, Catherine and I are standing at her locker. We’re in the middle of this semi-amazing conversation of the sort I don’t usually have with Catherine, talking about God and Buddha and whether the absolute polarity of the Yin and the Yang is sexist.

“It is,” says Catherine, with surprising vehemence. “It totally is. Balance? It’s not balanced! If it was balanced, it wouldn’t be degrading to women. What, what is that? To take a list of good things and have them represent men, then put all the shit over here, on this side—here, this is the women!”

“A symbol by itself doesn’t degrade something,” I say, but not with much conviction. The point of the argument isn’t to figure out what I really think, it’s just to take the opposing side and support it effectively.

“Anyway, wet and cold and dark aren’t necessarily value judgments.” I’m fumbling around with mittened hands, closing them on thin air, trying to convey a delicate equilibrium. “Yeah, maybe we associate them with corruption or aberration, but they aren’t inherently negative.”

I’m being disingenuous though, because cold kind of is. In addition to the mittens, I’m wearing my coat, an extra pair of socks, a wool hat and a bright lumpy scarf. And I’m still freezing.

Catherine opens her mouth to disagree, already shaking her head, waving a finger in my face. Then her gaze shifts abruptly.

“Uh,” she says, looking past me.

When I turn around, Jane is standing uncomfortably close, almost touching my elbow.

“Dill broke up with me,” she says. “Can I eat lunch with you?”

I try not to look awkward or surprised. The way she says it is just so coolly unaffected. So factual. And God, I love facts.

“Yeah,” I tell her without hesitating or even looking at Catherine to see if it’s okay. “Sure. I mean, we usually just stay here. Is that all right?”

She nods and walks away, and Catherine and I stand side by side, watching as she disappears into the crowd, hair swinging in a heavy curtain between her shoulders. A big boy in a football jersey steps in front of her. She straight-arms him in the back and keeps going.

“She is so weird,” Catherine says finally, sounding dazed. Almost awed.

I nod, but it’s an acknowledgment rather than an agreement. Jane is startling and unusual and abrasive. And I have never in my life had a problem with that.

I don’t know how I feel about the break-up. Or, I do but it’s ambivalent.

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been expecting it. Dill goes through girlfriends at what I consider to be an … elevated rate, and so I always had the sense that to a certain extent, it was inevitable. But there was still this other, stubborn part of me that insisted they were perfectly matched and permanently inextricable from each other. Indivisible.

I’ve spent more time than is reasonable or right thinking about their relationship, and way too much time writing about it. My musings on the topic always sound the same, so I won’t belabor the point, but here’s a general sample:

Whenever I talk to Dill, Jane is always there and I don’t know what to say to her. So I mostly just smile at her.

Before 2nd hour, I was at Catherine and Elizabeth’s locker, and Dill came to get his books, leading Jane by the hand.

Catherine rolled her eyes and said loudly, “That’s just wrong. She’s so weird.”

“Cathy, stop it!” I said, glancing at pretty black-haired Jane, who was watching us with big eyes. My voice dropped to a whisper. “Stop it, she’s nice.”

But Catherine still feels like Dill is a traitor for going out with Christie last year. I don’t. That’s just how he is. But now that he’s with Jane, he might as well stay consistent. She really does seem to like him. He might as well just stay consistent for awhile.

So I go to drawing with the feeling that this is something that we need to talk about. I don’t know what I’m going to say. I don’t even know why it seems so important until I flop down on my art stool and raise my head to see him looking back at me.

I didn’t yell at him, or say anything reprimanding or rude. I couldn’t.

I just sat across from him in Art and said, “Did you break up with Jane?”

And he said, “Yes.”

I looked down and asked, “Did you do it nice?”

He nodded. We didn’t say anything for a little while, just drew.

Then I put down my pencil and said, “Dill?”

He looked up. “Yeah?”

“I think you made her sad.”

“I know.”

The most honest conversation we’ve ever had.

Dill doesn’t say anything else. We’re working on pencil sketches of each other for the in-class assignment and he’s marking out the shadow of my collarbone but not looking at me to see if it’s accurate.

“What was wrong with her?” I ask, even though I usually wait for other people to volunteer things.

“Nothing. She was … She’s strange,” he says, avoiding my eyes.

“Stranger than me?”

That makes him laugh. “You’re not strange, you’re just unique.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I don’t know. There is one, though.”

In his picture, he’s given me a cartoonish rosebud of a mouth, made my eyelashes too long, the bridge of my nose too straight. You could cut glass on it.

I sit across from him, staring at the paper, trying to unpack the idea of unique. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think he does either. The drawing is the exact opposite of what I think unique should be. It’s like he hasn’t noticed anything about me, but has chosen the pictograph, the widely-accepted representation of a girl. She could be anyone.

I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

At lunch, Jane meets us by the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the courtyard. She brings a plain bagel and a large coffee and some packets of jelly and cream cheese and arranges it all on a paper napkin in a most meticulous way, which yes, is a little strange. But it’s not off-putting. It does not make her incompatible with our existing dynamic.

She laughs easily, rolling out a steady stream of one-liners. More importantly, she holds her own against Catherine, whose favorite pastime is to shock all newcomers with graphic and slightly hilarious sex-talk.

Jane only sweeps her hair out of her face and smiles a wry, indulgent smile.

It’s weird to think that she used to kiss Dill, and now she doesn’t anymore. I have never kissed him. Or more accurately, he never tried to kiss me.

I wonder if this means he didn’t want to. I don’t really think that’s it though, because even now, the way I catch him looking at me across the drawing table tends to suggest otherwise. Which bothers and intrigues me at the same time, but which I do not vocalize, not even a little. It’s weird to think I might be unkissable, simply by virtue of being “unique.”

Catherine spends most of the lunch hour mooning over her latest infatuation, a sophomore with chocolate-brown eyes. She describes him in rapturous terms, spreading her fingers for every exclamation point. When he walks past at the end of the lunch period, she squeals and turns red and shushes herself with her hands over her mouth.

Jane just gives me a cool, derisive look, like we’re sharing a moment. It’s unexpected, and secretly relieving, like we’re on the same team.

I sometimes think it’s kind of strange how I spend all this time with Catherine, who is basically never not talking about boys, and yet I have very little to say on the subject. And even when I let myself consider it, I mostly wind up saying things like this:

Catherine makes me nervous about boys. She is always worried that they are scheming to look down her shirt, or to touch her. I don’t really worry about that. Mostly, because I have nothing down my shirt to see, and not much to touch, either. 

“You are so naïve,” she said at lunch. “You act like you don’t even know that boys totally want your body.”

“Boys want my body?” I asked, trying not to snicker.

“Of course they do,” she said. “All boys ever think about is sex.”

“How would you know?” I asked. “You never even talk to boys.”

Catherine laughed. “Why would I want to? All they ever talk about is $%&@ing.”

Jane never talks like that. She never comments on the weather or wants to discuss homework or parents or jobs. She tells me crazy, fantastical stories about doomed civilizations, and serial homicide, and how she’s really a blue-skinned alien from another planet and I love it, because with Jane, we never have to waste time on what’s real, only what could be.

And this—Jane’s proclivity for the pretend—is how I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not unique. Not defective or singular. (Not freakish.)

Or at least, if I am, then Jane is too.


For discussion: Have you ever met someone you just clicked with? Who understood you and made you feel normal? Or, if you’d previously devoted a lot of time to fitting in, who made you feel abnormal, but more like yourself? How old were you? Were you lonely before them? Lonely even after you knew them?

Also, have you ever equated unique with broken?

(Also-also: man, how screwed-up is that?)

21 thoughts on “Unique

  1. I used to be an International Baccalaureate student, and most of the IB kids hung out with each other because we had a lot of classes together. School started at 7:50 but they opened the doors at 7:00 so we’d come early to talk, do our homework, get the work we missed from being absent, or ask the teachers questions about concepts we didn’t understand. Well there was a small group that used to hang out in a little alcove by some of the lockers and we’d usually talk or *ahem* ask the others what they got on their assignments. But whenever I was talking to that group of kids, I felt so much like myself because they were interested in some of the things I was interested in and we all just seemed to click in some way, but they also made me feel very abnormal because they didn’t seem to take the stress as badly as I did or have the same problems. I guess I’m not that great at articulating my thoughts so a lot of people seemed to not understand what I was saying about my opinion or about how I felt. They’d always give me this look like I’ve grown a second head which I’ve come to realize that means I didn’t explain myself all that well. So that was basically the experience I had in high school. I felt like I fit in but I also felt like I was different than everyone else.

    (for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve given this answer before O.O)

    • I used to be an International Baccalaureate student

      So, I’ve never mentioned this, because it seemed like it would complicate the narrative unnecessarily BUT—while tenth grade was my first public school experience, the year before, I was ill-fatedly enrolled in IB, and you know something? I absolutely hated it.

      It was the first year the district even offered it, and my mom was worried I’d be bored in public school, or that I wouldn’t meet people I had anything in common with, so IB might a good fit for me.

      Unfortunately, I turned out to be … shall we just say academically indifferent? Sure, I didn’t want to be bored or underestimated or patronized, but I just didn’t take academics as seriously as everyone else did (and they took them very seriously). I wasn’t competitive at all, and had a bad habit of only working hard when I was interested in something, which was occasional at best. Most of the people I was in school with were extremely nice, very stressed out, and very focused on performing well. Suffice it to say, IB turned out to be not a good place for me and I spent most of my time there begging to be taken out. And I was. And it was much, much better.

      It was kind of a shock though, the idea that the people I was supposed to just “fit” with might not be my people after all.

      • IB was way too stressful for me so then I was homeschooled and then I dropped out and now am planning to get my GED, so I guess that wasn’t the best option for me lol. Though IB did teach me that other people aren’t as anxious about everything as I am. Though I did seem to get along with some of the kids because doing well in high school used to mean a lot to me, but I would stress myself out to the point that I would be sobbing and begging my mom to let me stay home, but they seemed to handle the stress and competition with ease. I have kept in touch with a few of the kids that were in IB with me and a lot of them asked to be taken out of it because it just wasn’t their thing.

        I don’t think I’ve found my people yet lol :)

        By the way, it’s pretty cool that you know what it is. Most of the people I tell about it, don’t know what it is.

        • I don’t think I’ve found my people yet lol

          I only found mine painstakingly, one at a time, over years and years and years. And I know that it can be lonely, and that it would be so much nicer if it happened faster, but still, it does happen. Just, it sometimes only happens at this maddening, teeth-grinding snail’s pace that’s not doing anyone any favors :)

  2. My best friend Angi and I met at summer camp when we were twelve years old (eleven years ago now). I had just started that year, having gone to a different summer camp before, so I didn’t know anyone but they all knew each other. I heard Angi talking to another girl, Kiera, about the show Sailor Moon, which was pretty big at the time. In an unusually bold moment for me, I walked up to them and asked if they were talking about Sailor Moon. They said yes. I said “I like Sailor Moon too!” and we were immediately friends. Kiera stopped going to our camp but Angi and I remained inseparable for years, eventually going to the same magnet high school. We always called ourselves two halves of one whole. Suddenly I knew someone who was strange in the same ways I was, who had also struggled with depression and being suicidal and for the next several years we helped each other implicitly with these problems although they were never openly discussed. I believe she saved my life. She made me feel that I didn’t need to be like everyone else because I was like her. We are grown now, and have more differences than similarities, but are still best friends. I felt lonely before I knew her and certainly missed her much of the time afterwards because we spent years going to different schools and only really seeing each other in the summer. We went to college in different states and still don’t see each other much. But there is a comfort in knowing her, knowing that we love and accept each other.

    I’m not sure I’ve equated “broken” and “unique” before but I’ve definitely been called both. I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly unique but certainly different (strange, even). I always felt like I couldn’t be unique, even when I felt very alone, because there was Angi and she faced the same things I did. I do feel broken but not necessarily in a bad way (although it seemed that way for a long time). I feel like breaking has become an opportunity to remake myself into something better.

    • We are grown now, and have more differences than similarities, but are still best friends

      This is really wonderful. I’m so glad that I’m still in touch with a lot of my high school friends and that even though we’re very different and lead different lives, it hasn’t meant growing apart from each other as friends.

      I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly unique but certainly different (strange, even)

      Unique was a word that troubled me a lot at 17, precisely because of this. I think I was only just starting to really notice connotation—how unique had a generally good one, even though it essentially meant the same thing as a lot of other words that were often used in a negative sense. I was very concerned with how unique and freakish could be used almost interchangeably on an objective level, and yet mean completely different things, and the whole system of valuation just seemed so arbitrary. I was always worried I must be missing something.

  3. This is kind of a funny topic for me… because, well, let me start by saying that I am quite odd, and I like being that way. However, I’m not particularly assertive, so I tend to fade into the background, along with my strangeness. I have a few friends, but I think they try to ignore the weirder parts of my personality. It gets a little lonely being weird, but I don’t want to lose the side of myself that I thought no one really wanted to see, so I try to hide it most of the time.

    I’ve just finished with formal classes in high school, and only have exams left to go now, but I can’t get this guy (K) out of my head. I saw him at school almost every single day for years, but we’ve talked less times than there are days in a week [since we only shared a class for a semester, but sat with different people]. In spite of that, K’s probably the one person [outside my family] that doesn’t make me feel like I should try to make myself appear to fit in with everybody else; he seems to just fit with me, even though we don’t really have anything in common [funnily enough, the differences between us actually brought us closer together, rather than further apart, and makes me think that opposites really do attract].

    What makes this even weirder is the fact that K has an identical twin brother (M), who I actually shared a desk with in one of my year 10 classes. My first encounter with M was awkward, but somewhat uneventful. I didn’t think much of M, because he barely spoke, and I knew that one of my friends had a huge crush on him, which meant that in my head, he had a massive neon sign above his head that said “DO NOT ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION UNLESS SPECIFICALLY TOLD TO DO SO” [some idiot made her papranoid that I would be more his “type”, and I didn’t want to give her a reason to believe it]. My friend has had steady relationship with some other guy for a while, but I’ve kept my distance from M all the same. Not because he isn’t interesting [I’ve heard that he can be quite the interesting fellow given the right circumstances], but because we never clicked.

    Anyway, back to the other twin…

    My first real conversation with K happened last year, about a week before my seventeenth birthday. We were at an end-of-year / christmas party and we didn’t really know many people there aside from each other, so, naturally, we hung out. We alternated between being philosophical and running rampant. He may not be weird (he loves American sports, plays basketball, works out a lot, listens to typical mainstream music etc.), but at least he doesn’t make me feel bad about myself. That one day with K was enlightening and exhilarating at the same time; I didn’t know you could have so much fun, while really getting to know someone at the same time. Which makes me sad to note that when we went back to school, we didn’t really talk much. Mostly, we would just give a little smile and nod whenever we passed each other, then continue going wherever it was we were headed. Although I’m glad to say that we made up for a lot of this lost time during our end of year activities. For those few days, we pretended that this whole year never happened and just continued right where we left off; talking about everything we could think of and causing an incredibly chaotic scene in the process.

    The year isn’t over yet, but I already miss K because we don’t have any exams together, and we seem to be going off in completely different directions [he wants to go to the US and I want to got the UK]. I really hope we will be able to keep in touch over the years to come, in spite of my horrible track record.

    B.T.W. I love reading your high school posts because they make me feel better about being socially awkward, or at least, not following Hollywood’s rules for social etiquette. [sorry about the length, but I can’t seem to talk about something like this without rambling or being somewhat vague]

    • I tend to fade into the background, along with my strangeness

      This is *still* me a lot of the time, although I absolutely cannot stress enough the benefits of having weird friends. If you can find them and have them and keep them, if nothing else, you will enjoy yourself immensely :)

      I don’t want to lose the side of myself that I thought no one really wanted to see, so I try to hide it most of the time.

      I felt like this a lot—not so much that if I was open about who I was or what I was thinking, I’d be made fun of, but like if I exposed the stranger (more interesting) parts to people who didn’t understand, they might just wear out, or at the very least, I’d be wasting the things I liked best.

      the differences between us actually brought us closer together, rather than further apart, and makes me think that opposites really do attract

      While I don’t have enough data to know if it suits all situations, I can absolutely attest to this—my husband and I are different in so many ways, but the differences match up so that they complement each other, and just being around him makes it so much easier to be my better self. It’s like we offset each other, and the differences in and of themselves don’t matter.

      We alternated between being philosophical and running rampant

      This is the best thing ever. Really, the best. Also, this might be the time in your life where it’s actually worth it to try and keep in touch. People change a lot right after high school and during college, and the people who change in ways that suit all the ways you’re changing are often the ones who are still worth knowing years down the road.

      (I hope that made sense. What I really mean is, finding people to be on your team while you’re all entering adulthood is often the same as just finding people to be on your team.)

      (Also, we don’t care about rambling or length around here. If nothing else, trust me on that one.)

  4. My friends don’t make me feel normal, not in the sense that normal would mean like other people. I’m a bit odd, and even among them I’m strange. But they love my strangeness, and it’s completely accepted among them, which I makes me feel quirky and interesting rather than glitchy.

    It’s funny. I’ve always felt different, I think everyone does, but I’ve never equated it with unique. I’ve never actually thought I was different, in any important way. Just that I feel that way. Maybe because I assume that even if I feel very strange and different and alone, I’m probably feeling the same way everyone else it, but no one will talk about it. I was raised with the phrase “what’s going on over here is probably going on over there” as the answer to any personal conflict, and I guess it’s left its mark.
    I think I like unique, because it has a positive connotation. Unlike so many of the words I used above, despite the fact that I didn’t mean any of them derogatorily.

    • they love my strangeness, and it’s completely accepted among them, which I makes me feel quirky and interesting rather than glitchy

      My favorite thing about my friends in high school was just how different we were from one another, and how that created a kind of social alchemy. We just sort of went together, even though on the surface, we didn’t seem like we should.

      I’ve never actually thought I was different, in any important way. Just that I feel that way.

      This is pretty much where I’ve always been too. Or, I’ve known that I was different, but only in the way that people are different from other people. High school was interesting because it’s pretty much the only place I’ve ever been where people felt the need to actually comment on those differences, like they meant something.

      I think I like unique, because it has a positive connotation.

      This is actually where I got really wrapped up in thinking about it, because when Dill said it, it was pretty much the first time I’d ever been called different-in-a-good-way, and I was so confused because to the best of my knowledge, nothing had changed about me, so the difference was all perceptual. And god, I was unnerved by anything that smacked of the dreaded SUBJECTIVITY.

  5. When I was 15, I moved from a public school to a girls’ Catholic high school. Although, I knew it was time to move on, I missed my old friends terribly. The new friends I made were nice, but most of the time we related to each other on a very superficial level. We spent every break frantically studying or talking about really stereotypical fashion magazine sort of things.

    At the time, I was a bit more physically and intellectually hyperactive than the average teen girl. I was equally prone to jumping off of things and doing cartwheels as I was to reading the dictionary in an Eliza Doolittle accent.

    During my second week at this new school, one of my new friends pointed at a couple of freshmen who were taking turns swinging each other around by the armpits. She said something about them that was so disparaging, that after that I knew that I had to ‘turn off’ a large part of myself during school hours if I wanted to fit in.

    When I’d get home from school, I’d hang out with the toddlers that my mom was babysitting at the time, jumping up and down and yammering away about whatever it was that I couldn’t talk about that day at school for fear of being labeled a weirdo. That made me feel normal again.

    • The new friends I made were nice, but most of the time we related to each other on a very superficial level

      This really describes the very first set of friends I had when I started school. And I did spend a miserable amount of time editing myself, keeping quiet, avoiding being “weird.” The hardest part was just how bored I was. Counterintuitively, I felt a lot better once it occurred to me that these girls weren’t really my friends—they were some nice people I knew who always let me sit with them at lunch and invited me to their birthday parties, and I could still find the people I actually related to, it just wasn’t happening right this exact minute.

      I’d hang out with the toddlers that my mom was babysitting at the time

      In tenth grade, the best part of my day was going home to my sister and all my little cousins, reading storybooks and playing dress-up and generally being ridiculous.

  6. I‘ve never classified myself as “unique” [or “uni-kew” as my eldest brother pronounced it for YEARS], though others have told me I am, & I’ve certainly felt I was “one of a kind”. I didn’t really fit or click 100% with anyone at high school, my life really took off after that. Its one piece of advice I’d offer to young adults / teens who are feeling the weight of high school, struggling with peer pressure, all that shit. It DOES end & you go on to uni [college, grad school, whatever] & work & just BE YOU & find people who you DO click with. At least that’s how it happened with me.

    Hooo-wheeeee broken, yes. Definitely. Like there was something not quite “right” in the workings of my brain. I was a bit strange & quirky & well, fey; I certainly perceived & imagined life / events / interactions very differently than others around me.

    It sounds incredibly soppy & feel free to vomit, but my husband & I clicked *instantly* when we met, he makes me feel whole & vice versa. It was very odd actually as we’re both very reseverved, wary types in social situations, but we recognised each other immediately. We’ve been really good for one another too, it’s an equal partnership which is amazing; we still have mad fun giggling & talk non-stop. I have male & female friends like that too, who I’ve sort of “collected” over the years; we can talk about the most serious of issues, but also go in for ridiculous silliness too.

    Those few paras you described of Dill drawing you – but not actually checking that he’d got you true to life, that he had an image in his head of who Brenna was & drew from that? I think I would have been annoyed & creeped out by that, being someone’s doll … but also flattered, it’s lovely that he visualised you as so attractive & flawless! [Also: I would have loved a Jane for a friend; I miss #4 though … did you still see him in the halls if not in class?]

    Thanks for another great entry, Brenna!

    — Jules


  7. I‘ve never classified myself as “unique” [or “uni-kew” as my eldest brother pronounced it for YEARS], though others have told me I am, & I’ve certainly felt I was “one of a kind”

    This was really the thing I was having the most trouble with—the idea that there was bad-different and good-different and in-between, and everyone around you got to decide which were the bad parts and which were the good ones, and you could be unique, and someone else could be weird, or vice versa and there seemed to be no formal rule to any of it. I always wanted to understand what everything meant, and it was so hard to accept that sometimes people just get ideas about you, and it doesn’t really mean anything. Or at least, not about you.

    my husband & I clicked *instantly* when we met

    While I won’t say my husband and I hit it off immediately (awkward encounters, halting conversation) I knew right away that I wanted to know him. He was so quiet and alert and thoughtful at a place and time in our lives when everyone else was just so loud.

    I think I would have been annoyed & creeped out by that, being someone’s doll … but also flattered

    Oh, we could just call this “Ode to My Junior Year.” I think I never truly understood the meaning of the word ambivalent until I was around boys. There were so many things I liked and disliked, wanted and hated and wished for and was scared of, all at the Same Time.

    (And it’s okay, #4 comes back. By which I mean, it is NOT okay, it’s all going to be terrible. But only in the most cinematic, ludicrous, semi-hilarious, high-schoolish way possible.)

    P.S. AHHHH! It is so SOON!!!

    • Omigosh now I can’t wait for the teen movie post !!! [soundtrack featuring Marilyn Manson’s cover of Tainted Love?]

      EEEEEEEEE SOOOOOOOOON !!!!! A little while back [in my email reply to you asking for my mailing address], I asked about the birthing pangs of authors . . . would love for you to shed light on your experience? You seem a trifle dazzled a la very-cute-deer-[possibly-really-disconcertingly-creepy-liver-eating-cute-deer]-in-headlights? If that’s not too personal?

      Also huge congratulations on the fabulous reviews of The Space Between coming in! YAY!

      • I asked about the birthing pangs of authors . . . would love for you to shed light on your experience?

        Yes, you did ask! (Thank you for reminding me. When I thought that going away for a weekend wasn’t going to disrupt my routine in the slightest, I was so wrong …)

        I can only say how it is for me, but this is a topic I certainly don’t mind talking about. The revision stages are actually where I go kind of crazy and the panic takes over (twitching, rocking, neglecting to brush my hair). First drafts and finished manuscripts just don’t have the same kind of awesome and terrible power over me, but I know people who are good all the way through the writing process and then completely lose it in the weeks coming up to the launch date.

        I really think it’s a matter of temperament, more than anything. I’m whatever the opposite of a control freak is. I hate being the one responsible for things, so making the book the best I can make it is a huge amount of pressure and forces me to become Greatly-Altered Brenna. Once it’s out of my hands though, all that just melts away and I’m already on to the next thing. (Not to imply that I don’t desperately love TSB—I do, I do! But it’s in a far, abstract way now, where I can love it without feeling like I need to still be fixing All the Things.)

        Basically, as soon as the responsibility is no longer mine, I can just go back to being unnaturally placid. Which is where I’m most comfortable :D

  8. I feel the need to comment because, while many others are describing the process of navigating life while wearing the “Unique” tag…I always felt tragically Normal. (I even had this fantastic shirt that Brenna made me, that had AVERAGE written accross the chest in rhinestones…it was great, because it was both fitting and ironic, given the popularity at the time of shirts that said things like “Princess” and “Drama Queen.”) Anyway, I have always been drawn to people who are unusual, eccentric, quirky, etc, because they make things more interesting…Some of my best friends are downright weird. I guess my point is, if you feel “unique,” there are probably a lot of “normal” people out there looking for you to enrich their lives…Of course, when you think about it the whole thing is absurd–How can you really call anyone “normal/abnormal?” It has so much to do with context and subjective perception it just boggles the mind! But in high school it did seem pretty black and white.

    -Little Sister Yovanoff

    • Hi, LSY,

      I understand you’re mainly saying that interesting people with unique perspectives are an important part of what makes life grand. The glancing reference to feeling “tragically Normal” begs a comment from someone, anyone, who has known you for a long time.

      We all got the sparkly “AVERAGE” joke back then. However, given your wisdom, gentleness, intellect, talent, focus, strength of will, adventurousness, good humor, sparkle, generosity, accomplishments… and *modesty,* then and now, the only true descriptor is “EXTRAORDINARY.” That’s why sparkly “AVERAGE” was such a *big* joke.

      • The glancing reference to feeling “tragically Normal” begs a comment from someone, anyone, who has known you for a long time

        Aw, I always just figured being normal was kind of LSY’s Thing—nothing tragic about it. I mean, if you are raised in a manger among goats and black-bearded men who look gypsies, with ferrets and 56 Chevys at your feet, where do you have left to rebel to?

        Also, at least in high school, this unflinching devotion to normalcy even when sandwiched between me and Wit (or especially then?) was just about the biggest piece of social performance art ever! Just like Banksy :)

    • How can you really call anyone “normal/abnormal?” It has so much to do with context and subjective perception it just boggles the mind!

      Exactly! I mean, even years later, all these ideas about social identity are still completely problematic. Meaning that the Unique tag is just the biggest bunch of shit, which doesn’t remotely stop it from existing, or even from legitimately signifying sets of actual characteristics. But those characteristics only look unique when they’re surrounded by something different, and then as soon as you group like with like, then you just have consistency. God, you can’t categorize anything with any precision can you?

      (Well, you can sort things into groups like potato, because a potato is never not one. But people—I mean you can’t adequately categorize people!)

      (Also, if you put a red potato in with a bunch of russets, then it would be unique to itself, even though it’s just a potato. Okay, I have to stop now.)

      (This is me, stopping.)


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