One of the great joys of travel is discovering the incredible variety of seemingly poor food concoctions out there, then sampling them only to realize it was you who were confused all along. I have come to the conclusion that foods that don't appear to fit together make some of the most enjoyable and memorable of dining experiences. Be it prosciutto and cantaloupe in Italy, chocolate and cheese in Colombia, kumquats and meatballs, or French fries and ice cream with your weird friend from high school, many great and unique foods have managed to retain their own distinct flavors while complimenting one another as some altogether new and exciting treat. Kind of like real friends do. Particularly the peculiar ones who dip their fries in ice cream.
When it was suggested that bananas, catsup, and turkey work together in a crepe at Stephanie's they didn't panic. Catsup didn't say to itself, "What if turkey doesn't like me? Maybe I should try to be more like turkey." They just all dove in the crepe doing their thing and found out they worked well together. As people we have a distorted view of what it means to try to fit in. We attempt to fit in by conforming to what others are doing, what they are wearing, what they are saying, and eventually, how they are thinking. Yet still, somehow, we never really feel like we truly belong.
This is because things fit together when they are different. Imagine working a puzzle where the pieces have all been made to fit together randomly. All the edges and intricate loops have been shaved off and the whole puzzle has been painted one uniform color so you can put them together interchangeably. That puzzle has become so much easier to work now. No more struggling to find that piece with the weird shape or that little bit of blue in the corner. A puzzle that may have taken weeks to work can now be finished in minutes.
Of course, there are holes and gaps now where you cut off those bits that didn't fit; and there is no picture when you are done. Just a monochromatic, incomplete blob. And a mere bump of the table scatters the pieces, but that is okay because you can just shove them back together even though they will never hold.
This is not truly fitting in. Your true self is not some nondescript, interchangeable, inoffensive blob. Our society is a giant jigsaw puzzle of interesting, colorful, sometimes outrageous shapes and designs that we look at and think, "There is no way that piece could ever fit in anywhere." Until you discover that outrageous, bizarre hole that needs filled in order to complete the puzzle and hold everything together.
There are two ways to look at the world: We can search for beauty or we can search for imperfections. Two people can see the same thing or share an identical experience, and yet, deliver such polar opposite descriptions that it seems impossible that they were in the same place or with the same person. Think of a person that you love. Now think of something about that person that makes you smile or laugh. Odds are that something you thought of would be considered an imperfection. Some quirk or characteristic that makes them special and different from everyone else. Love for a person comes from those oddities that give them a flavor that makes you crave more of them - like a delicious savory crepe (specific examples may vary).
So, if you are that crazy, puzzle piece that feels like it will never fit, please don't change to pretend to do so. The rest of us need you, as you are, to complete the puzzle. You are here for a reason and the rest of us are diminished if you don't remain the best, original version of you. Be you, with all of your odd bits that give you your distinctive flair. Of course, it is those odd bits that are going to offend someone else who has odd bits of their own. But just maybe, it is those opposing odd bits that each other are missing that can fit together to create an unexpected bond.
Often we label other people based upon their particular bits that offend us. But here is a truth I have found. It is a lot easier to hate the idea of a person than to hate the actual person. We all surround ourselves with comfortability and sameness. But perhaps if we try it, we might find we can create a more beautiful, fulfilling picture by finding connection with others who may not look or think exactly like us. If we do that, I guarantee it will take more than someone bumping the table to tear us apart.
Fitting in shouldn't mean diminishing ourselves and attempting to resemble others. Fitting in should mean being more of ourselves. Enhance and nurture those bits of yourself that make you stand out in a crowd. Make it easier for us to recognize all the special gifts you bring to this world. Someone out there is looking for your uniqueness. So if you are a pomegranate, there might be a falafel out there who needs a pomegranate friend. Let your pomegranateness stand out proud and strong making it easy for you to find one another.
Finding That Special Kumquat