This morning, as I lay in bed moving between sleep and wakefulness, my mind wandered to APA standards for writing academic papers. They annoy me. Well, what really annoys me is that there are so many different ways of doing things and I don't particularly like this style. Why has the development of writing styles come to a point where we have multitudes of ways to do things? Why is it, in a citation, for instance, we have the option (in language - not APA ... there are no options in APA only their way) to write pp. or pg. or p. when contracting the word page?
Then I laughed at myself. Because that's a strange thought to have before seven o'clock in the morning and because I'm kind of a nut.
I wasn't finished thinking about the whole thing, though. My mind tracked back to a discussion we'd had on the Marvelous Words Facebook page about language and words and how it was all sometimes so confusing and difficult to grasp. Why can't language be more organized?
At that point, my mind decided it needed to be more fully awake because it began barreling down various tangents of thought ... all revolving around the beauty found in differences.
We have style guides because our language is filled with so many differences and those differences are what make our language useful as well as glorious. Without them, the language would be stilted and would only represent a means of expression for a limited number of people. American English is filled with bits and pieces of words from all over the world, allowing a depth of insight into ourselves that would be missed if we had limited its development to one original source.
But, difference in language was only one of the tangents my thoughts took as I celebrated the freedom with which we are able to be different. Can you imagine living in a country where vehicles were one color, one size, one shape? Have you ever seen pictures of East Germany before the wall came down in 1989? Can you imagine not being allowed to try different tastes in the food you eat, or different textures and colors in the clothes you wear, being able to choose whether you want a cat or a dog, and then which breed would fit your life?
The funny thing is, we do attempt to homogenize our lives. It's awfully convenient for us to enter nearly any medium to large size community in the United States and find a Walgreens. When we walk in the front door of that store, we see nothing of the local flavor, only those things which have made themselves familiar to the population. We prefer eating a restaurant chains we can find in our own home town because the experience of exploring new and different has already overwhelmed us just by being away from our comfortable, safe house.
Our kids attempt to homogenize their lives. Expectations for kids' clothing and behavior is one of the things which causes bullying and poor self esteem. Everyone is supposed to look like and act like the preferred 'type' of kid and anyone who doesn't fit in is ignored.
We are comfortable in the 'same,' but we are surrounded by the 'different.'
I was never one of the 'same.' When I was in elementary school, we lived in a very small community in southeast Iowa. My graduating class there would have had only 23 students in it. We moved into town the summer before my second grade year. Because I was the minister's daughter, I was already an attraction. In a town that size, the new minister showing up was a big deal ... everyone paid attention. Over the summer, I got to know a few of the children my age because their families went to our church, but it became apparent, I hadn't gotten to know enough of them. It didn't occur to me that I should act like a stupid girl in class to gain friends, or to not show my enthusiasm for music or reading, or to not treat adults with respect. We didn't have much money, so my clothes were made by mom or were handed down from cousins or friends. But, each of those things marked me as different. Pretty soon, I was lumped with the outcasts in the class, ridiculed and taunted. The next year I spent time in the hospital for a heart problem, one that scared teachers because they were certain I might die on them. I was quite different by that point and the popular girls in my class ignored me at best, tried to destroy me at their worst.
Fortunately, I had a mother who believed that 'unique' was these best way to be. When I would come home in tears, she made sure I knew that my uniqueness was a good thing. She never once said bad things about the other girls in my class, but began showing me how being different and unique made me worthwhile to the world. She helped me see the long view of life, looking beyond the small, petty world of the school room to the larger world outside. I had to deal with those girls during the day, but when I came home at 3:00, my world exploded. There was unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement; she put books in front of me which blew my little world apart; she took me to the library and put me in the capable hands of an older woman who loved books; she sent me outside to play with my brother and sister, where we created worlds in our imaginations. Every morning I went back to school filled with thoughts bigger than those of petty classroom jealousies. When I came home from school beaten down by the girls one more time, the process began again so the next morning I would once again be prepared.
I appreciate a hamburger from McDonald's (the king of homogenization) or a quick meal with friends at Applebees and I shop at Walgreens. But, this morning my thoughts revolved around differences and how much more exciting they make my world.