How to survive being a teenage weirdo

“There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you.”  – Bjork

Being a teenager sucks. Or, at least, it does when you’re plump, acne-ridden, into stuff that’s considered weird, and you can’t connect with the people around you. Other kids are cruel, adults are out of touch and the only thing that makes you feel better is the album or film you just discovered.

As a 14-year-old I started compiling survival kits – music, film and art I enjoyed, with characters who felt just as freakish and out of place as me. These were usually stories about young people in the midst of transformation, narratives where characters felt ‘other’, or not fully human. My favourite characters were girls who became witches, werewolves, demons and beasts. Women who were called murderers and jezebels, harlots and evil queens.

The arts always resonate with me, but I have a soft spot for characters that don’t belong, and for stories where people try to engage in a world that feels alien.

Be a clumsy girl by day and an interplanetary warrior by night

Trying to fit in used to agonize me. Meeting new people and asking myself, “How can I be like everyone else? How can I get them to like me?” I can try to look like other girls; I can wear the blouses and Mary Jane shoes, but my canines are still too sharp, my eyebrows too thick, my fingernails razed.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come to revel in this wild blood. You waste so much time on the opinions of bullies and hypocrites, that you forget how refreshing it is to be different. Maybe you’re not like a lot of other people – you’re too intense, too raw, too weird and vulnerable – but that’s ok. Refuse to be moulded by other people, and refuse to feel bad if they don’t like you. Care about the opinions of people who are kind, daring, artistic and true.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing the survival kits I created as a young woman and writing about the artists who inspire me to stay true. These are people who have suffered for being themselves – who have been called oddballs and miscreants, outcasts and viragos – and whose works sing to me whenever I’ve had a terrible day or feel so lonely my bones ache.