We had a class this week with the brilliant and obscenely handsome Graham Fink. I won’t harp on that second fact, but he looks like a brooding version of Stephen Malkmus, frontman of the iconic 90s indie rock band Pavement. In the scarce moments of focus between being distracted by his statuesque jawline and piercing blue eyes, I absorbed one nugget of information that got me thinking. One of the points of advice he gave us was to stand out. In order to get attention, we have to be different and make different work than what is currently being made. At my tender age of 28, I have more clarity on this—I know that the reason I’m here at the SCA is because I’m a weird little fucker—but the idea of being different was something that lingered over me as I grew up.
When I was younger, up until my late teens, I desperately wanted to fit in. Not even just to fit in, but I wanted to be a social butterfly. I wanted to be the type that classmates revere, someone who naturally commands a room (not sure if this reference resonates here, but think TJ Detweiler from Disney’s Recess). The thing is I was still a weird and even littler fucker.
A big tradition in my primary school was the grade 6 graduation dance. It was the first time in which kids expressed a modicum of romantic interest. There was so much build-up to the event that kids would start preparing a year early. I had a solid group of four friends, and they all had their prepubescent relationships (at that age all it took was exchanging three words with each other once a year). I felt the pressure to be cool like them, so I set my sights on a girl I had literally never said a word to. I asked her to the dance BY EMAIL. After that I still never said a word to her, until one recess my friends dared me to hug her and because of the peer pressure, I walked up to her while she was talking to friends and with her back facing me I wrapped my arms around her before running off at a world record pace. At one point later that year I sent her another email that just said “I LOVE YOU” and pretended that someone had sent it from my account. This is not normal behaviour. We ended up sitting at the same group of desks the next year and actually became friends, but still not a word about the romance. We never shared that dance, which is good because I probably would’ve done more insane shit.
That’s a pretty absurd story, and being as young as I was didn’t help, but there was more than a fair share of awkwardness throughout junior high and high school. I spent a year and a half trying to hang out with the rebellious kids who I thought were the cool ones, before settling in with the nerdy kids in the gifted program who I should’ve hung out with all along and who are still my best friends to this day. I started to embrace my weird fuckerness.
I wish I had a Graham Fink when I was younger. That tension between wanting to be normal while being a weird fucker gave me a lot of unnecessary anxiety in my life. Some people think it’s normal for kids to want to fit in, but I disagree. I look at the state of advertising currently and it’s practically all normal shit. We’re conditioned to pursue normalcy. I hope that me and all the other weird little fuckers at the SCA are able to break that mould and be that difference.