That poignant, magical place fascinated me as a little girl. Every year when Christmas rolled around, I couldn't wait to watch the primitively animated TV special, "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer." I wanted to climb into the television set to reassure Rudolph that if he could just hang in there, he'd find friends... and he would TRIUMPH!
My favorite part, other than Rudolph's ultimate victory, was when the red-nosed outcast fled to the Island of Misfit Toys. There was something alluring about those flawed toys. Something endearing in their quirkiness, something enchanting in their unexpectedness.
Unlike the rigid reindeer crowd, those playthings had a vulnerability that made them warm, lovable. The elf who wanted to be a dentist, the misnamed Charlie-in-the-Box, the spotted elephant....
I wished I could tell those charming yet haunting toys that I for one would love them if they came to my house. I couldn't understand how they could be shunned for their inconsequential imperfections.
Then, yahoo! Rudolph found kindred spirits, who accepted him and his uniquely luminous gifts. Who treasured, instead of ridiculed, him. Who helped him soar. Literally.
I could relate. I still can.
I think this may be part of why I wear this Santa Hat, day in and day out, year after year. Of course, I'm aiming to spread a sense of joy and connection and playfulness.
But I now realize that I also do it to ratify the universal human experience of not fitting in. It's an attempt to show that it's ok not to fit in. It may even be a gift, as it was with superhero Rudolph. Shoot, by being his own magical self, he saved Christmas!
You see, I've played the game of conventionality, pretty well, actually. I still know all of the endless rules. I still feel the anesthetizing pull more often than I'd like. Oh, yes, the lure of the crowd to keep you in its lockstep can be awfully potent. And stultifying.
Uniformly undiluted homogeneity? No, thanks. Think I'll take a pass.
Because I sensed a long, long time ago, maybe in front of that rabbit-eared TV set, that the thrilling part of living for me lies in the iridescent landscape where we each cultivate creativity, imagination and beauty. That path of the artist may place me squarely on the periphery. That may make me a misfit.
But, in case you hadn't noticed, we're all misfits. I.e., human, but in essence like those toys isolated on a faraway island.
We each carry our own personal caches of ticks and idiosyncrasies, our quirks, our demons and our heart's desires. This commonality enables us to have compassion for each other. As young as I was, I still got how their sense of connection provided at least some redemption for those sad, wistful toys.
Yet, the unique flavors of our own individuality make the roller coaster of life endlessly intriguing and inspiring. We can, in fact, have the best of both worlds. Empathizing with each other as we all journey along while appreciating the boundless variations on the magical, imperfect human theme.