I walked into the first day of class and sat in silence as the professor scribbled something out on the board.
“Let your freak flag fly.”
Oh, absolutely not. I do not belong here. These are not my people. This is not my place. Maybe I should get up and give a little speech. “For the sake of everyone, please just keep that flag tucked into your back pocket. Save taking it out for your personal time, when it’s just you and the safety created by the silence and space of your inner self.” No, no, giving a speech would make me weird. Give no reaction. That’s the safest bet.
Professor Freak Flag begins to tell us about himself. He is one of Lord Farquaad’s guards in Shrek the musical, which is where “Let your freak flag fly” comes from. He plays MineCraft with his kids. It’s the main topic of conversation at the dinner table some evenings, he says. He uses hair gel to style his mustache every day.
Oh man. He’s taking the freak flag thing to heart. Come on, man. Keep that sucker tucked away please.
Professor Freak Flag then decides it is time to get to know his students. “Tell me a little bit about yourself” he looks directly at me with a grin.
Alright. Stick with the safe stuff, Al. “My name is Aly. I just transferred here from Pacific Lutheran University and I’m studying business.” Uninteresting and straight to the point. I will surely be deemed as normal. Normal just like everyone else.
He moves on to a boy sitting in the back of the class, interested in finding out where he is from.
“Tacoma,” he says.
“Anywhere in particular in Tacoma?”
I think about how I would answer that question. “North End” would be my response. You see, claiming “North End” status in Tacoma is basically the equivalent to declaring yourself as a middle-class, privileged, white person. It would be my subtle, subconscious way of announcing that everyone around me at this non-private, diverse institution was beneath me. But, this was not my question to answer. It was his.
“Nope. Just Tacoma,” Boy From Back of Class responded.
That’s when I heard The Voice. The one that always seems to be right. The one that has a tendency to put me in my place. “You are the same as him, Alyson. You are both from Tacoma. The difference lies in the fact that he is unashamed and you are arrogant.”
Ahh, this is the paradox of human relationships- the desire to fit in, the fear of being similar.
I am proud. I am a hypocrite. I hunger for community- I have a deep desire to be known for who I am, as I am- yet I deny people the ability to offer common ground on which to build friendships. I claim to value individuality- yet I only claim my own when it comes as a convenience to me. As if that isn’t bad enough, I justify my actions with claims of hoping not to hurt feelings or step on toes. All the while my good intentions are tainted by a sense of false humility- this underlying belief that who my Maker designed me to be falls short and who I choose to be instead is somehow better.
The Voice speaks to me, gentle but firm. “I designed you perfectly to be who you are. No one else. I crafted you to have unique abilities and talents in the hopes that you would not be ashamed of the gifts I have given you. Nurture your gifts. Be you. Let others be who I have designed them to be. I will bless you abundantly when you do.”
The command isn’t easy, but He’s right. So my prayers look different lately.
All glory to you, God. All the talents, all the skills, all praise to you, God. Make me humble. Make me small. Make me reflect the human you designed me to be. And help me to let my freak flag fly.