Hi there, Papa!
Before we'd begin, I'd like to apologize in advance if someone before me has already asked this question: as a furry, how do I go about making friends in a society that is presumably intolerable to my hobby?
I am about to go to high school, one that's religious and strict and uniformed. There's no way out of it. My parents have made up their minds. They figure that since my older sister (who attended there previously) took a liking to the school, that I would as well. But frankly, I'm the opposite of my sister. Analytical, logical, judging, academically intelligent? No. Think imaginative, idealistic, perceptive, emotionally in-tune. Ballet, AP classes, student leadership with friends? Nah. Try art, meditation, and hiking through nature alone. We have the super intelligent, friendly, and funny computer science nerd, and the overly-artistic and weirdly antisocial "hippie" furry girl. And this girl's being sent to a strict, dare I say it, posh Catholic school with high expectations and low tolerance for anything that is considered "weird."
I know that people aren't always going to be as accepting and open-minded as I am, but I am currently being plunged into a strict world with strict, uptight, unaccepting people. I remember once bringing up a conversation with one of my potential future classmates and sprinkling in some of my hobbies and interests (excluding furry). And just from that, they were appalled. As were the other students I tried to connect with. They didn't even have to speak necessarily; I could tell from their body language and facial expressions that they were very uncomfortable, maybe even freaked out that I do things like meditate instead of shop at the mall, and draw and write stories instead of doing sports or extra academic classes. Granted, these were not art students. But then even when I spoke with more artsy students like me, they thought my ideas were far too weird, and that my creative and pondering imagination had no off-switch. I suppose that's true, but I never really wanted to hit an off-switch. I like my imagination. And yes, I tried very hard to appeal to their better nature and to make a connection, but nothing really worked. Either I'm too weird for them, or they're too sophisticated for me. I don't know.
Needless to say, I didn't dare bring up furry.
So I was wondering if you had any tips or pointers to reaching out to these frankly intimidating people. Usually I'm able to connect with most people in an instant, whether or not they like me. I have this weird ability to tell what people are like when I meet them from the way they move, talk, behave, etc. I get vibes from them. I call it my "Spidey-Sense." But I am embarrassed to admit that I was unable to connect with any of these people. When I spoke to them, all I could see and hear and feel was pretty generic. I couldn't really detect much personality in these people, no offense to them. They just didn't seem to really care, you know?
I apologize. I sometimes have trouble describing what I mean. It would be so much easier for me to communicate if my heart and mind would speak for my mouth.
Anyways, I'm just not sure what to do. I'm already a weird person, with or without the furry hobby. I had so much trouble just speaking with these students and staff, I have no idea how I'm going to try to make friends. Please, if you have any tips or pointers or suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated. I'm open to any ideas.
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Let’s set aside the whole furry thing for a moment because what we are talking about here is bigger than just your interest in things furry: it is about the conflict between our need to be accepted by others and our need to be our true selves.
A wise man named Henry David Thoreau said, “Be yourself—not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be.” Human beings strive to assimilate because they are social creatures who find strength and comfort from being part of a group. Unfortunately, when that group’s standards differ from one’s own, an inner conflict arises—a dissonance in the soul that makes us deeply unhappy. This is what you are going through right now.
The problem starts because your parents are treating you like your sister, even though the two of you are very different individuals. A good place to start, then, would be to approach your parents and ask them if they would consider sending you to a different school. Explain to them that you feel your sister’s school, while it might be quite excellent academically, is more designed toward mathy, sciency types, but you are more artistic and would like to go to a school that is more geared toward the arts. I don’t know how open your parents are to talking to their children, but I’m wondering if you have even considered letting them know how you feel about this school? Perhaps, if they are open minded, they will listen and, not knowing before how you felt, will try and find something else for you. If so, then perhaps problem solved.
If not, and they make you go to this school anyway, then I suggest you look at the broad picture: it is more important to be who you are than it is to assimilate (unless you are a Borg, who are such charming people, yes?), even if that means you will be friendless. Going back to Thoreau, he once said he would rather sit alone on a pumpkin than sit with a lot of people on a velvet cushion. It’s better to reject the materialistic trappings of society and be an individual.
The number one reason I hear from furries as to why they are unhappy is that they are not allowed to be themselves. Being a furry is just one facet of your unique personality. Ultimately, however, the only person who can make you be or not be yourself is … you. When you think of it, who are the people considered most admirable in our world? It’s people like Benjamin Franklin, Rosa Parks, Nikola Tesla, Allen Ginsburg, Jackson Pollock, people who went against the norm and fiercely, courageously insisted on themselves. And the people who epitomize what society supposedly wants? The rich and famous like movie, music, and sports stars? Have you ever noticed how much American society likes to trash these people? And when you ask them, they often say that they were at their most unhappy when they were the richest and most famous (great example is the Beatles).
We only have one life. How many of us lead lives of “quiet desperation” (Thoreau again). People frantically try to gain approval and worry about obtaining things that society deems valuable (houses, cars, money) and die having wasted their talent, their hearts, their souls.
Turquoise, thank you for writing ol’ Papabear and giving me this opportunity to address youngsters like yourself who are standing on that precipice in their teens years. You have a choice here of accepting what others say you should be and do, stepping forward, and falling into the abyss—OR! You can give yourself the power to grow wings and fly safely above the expanse.
Keep it in perspective, hon. We are here to find ourselves, to grow, and to love. All else is vanity. That is my advice to you.
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