• Carla

Stand Out

I've been thinking a lot about when exactly it is that we lose our "weird."

At what age do we step over the threshold from doing whatever goofy thing crosses our minds to questioning our instincts with an unrelenting, hyper self-consciousness?

Watching my almost-ten-year-old daughter move toward double digits next month has me very aware of that energy steadily creeping closer and closer, ready to rip away her own ability to stand confidently in a room and not feel the need to apologize for something about her existence.

She asks me if things match now instead of putting her usual bold outfits together, worries about her physical appearance, and expresses anxiety over being left behind by her peers. From the outside, I see an amazing human with brilliant ideas, fierce independence, and a heart so big it should burst. My own heart breaks at the thought of her one day not being able to see those beautiful things in herself and becoming resigned to conform to some misguided perception of what everybody else thinks of her.

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary about the early years of Nickelodeon on Hulu. Let me just say, the opening credits of The Orange Years alone felt like my childhood was flashing before my eyes and brought me so much joy with that sweep of nostalgia. It was also fascinating to listen to the people behind the channel talk about their mission to reach kids on their level and the way that Nickelodeon came to be what it was in the 90's and beyond.

One of the things that struck me most about their history was the development of their logo. They started with a round silver ball and rainbow-colored type. It was a safe option, and ultimately did them a disservice by lacking authenticity. The signature orange color they adopted in 1984 was chosen because it did not blend in the way their first logo did. Its genius lies in its simplicity and the way that it naturally stands out.

The orange, coupled with a signature font, was able to be morphed into everything from a splat, to a blimp, to a pair of sunglasses, and lots in between precisely because it didn't "go" with anything. A lack of harmony with other colors actually opened up a world of possibility for their logo to shift, change, and grow with their channel because coordinating it with anything else was already off the table.

The wonderful weirdness of Nickelodeon that is interwoven with my childhood was a force to be reckoned with (and still is) as well as something I never thought to question. I really believe the sole reason for that is because they looked at their values, their audience, and what they had to offer and ran with it. Nickelodeon found itself, held on, and let their imaginations run the show, all while refusing to apologize for it.

Many of us let ourselves be bullied into a corner by things real or imagined in our formative years and then spend so much of our energy in adulthood healing and rebuilding or continuing to hide. I am so grateful to have been able to reconnect with and love that tragic young tween and teen inside me like they deserve. It is my mission to help my children hold onto themselves, especially through the rough, shark-infested waters of adolescence. They too deserve to revel in their orangey glory and not ever worry about matching with anything or anyone else.

What I want most to impart to my daughter as she moves into those years of major growth and uncertainty is this:

Don't be afraid to stand out and be noticed. When you love who you are and operate out of that authenticity, your individuality will be what sustains you. Your creative energy will fuel you. You will have the ability to be anything you dream up and no one else's opinion of you will matter because you will be a whole human—the cupcake and the frosting—and you will be absolutely delicious. Living like that may get loud, awkward, and ridiculous at times, but your people will love you anyway, not despite your "weird," but most definitely because of it.

If I can help her to make it to adulthood with that piece of her spirit intact, then I will have done my most important job as a mama well.

Be weird. Be orange.

Be you.

Thank you for joining me. I am so glad you’re here!


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