by Maisie Smith on October 30, 2014
I’ve been thinking about our conversation the other day, the one about how you weren’t sure if the world was ready for you. The earnestness that shone through your eyes has hogged my thoughts since we had that cup of coffee.
I keep going back to an experience from high school that changed everything for me.
I opened up my spiral notebook and clicked my pen in rhythm with the ticking wall clock. The double-beat echoed in the corner of the library I was holed up in, which happened to be WWII History. No one was going to bother me that day.
After doodling spirals on the header of the page for a few minutes, I began a frantic scribbling of words… as was common once a story finally unfolded in my mind. “Daffodils.” That would be the title of the day’s story. And it was going to be about a boy and a girl riding on a Ferris wheel at the county fair. A bolt comes loose, the boy falls out and the girl watches him plummet 50 feet to his death.
Morbid. Yet somehow perfect.
This was my daily habit. While other high school students zipped off to the Taco Bell for lunch, I retreated to my sacred space in the school library to write nonsense in a tattered notebook. Mostly, it was bullshit about cancer and hot boyfriends and people dying… stuff I knew nothing about. It was there, under the humming fluorescent lights of the 1980’s, that my teenage angst was translated from brain to paper.
Being a normal teenager wasn’t working for me. Despite valiant efforts to arrange lunchtime hangouts with friends, inevitably one of them would have the quite inglorious task of having to tell me that I was “too weird” for the group. The next day there would be one less empty chair around the table as I approached and I’d find myself thinking, “Message received, loud and clear, robots of Earth.” When you listen to classical music on your Walkman, eat cucumbers with hummus for lunch and color the blue Keds label on the back of drugstore canvas shoes with a Sharpie, you’re alone. A lot.
My weirdness found solace amongst the stacks of books in the empty library. Writing was my joy, words were a balm for my restless spirit. The callus on the inside knuckle of my middle finger was a proud battle scar. Every day, my soul bled onto the pages.
I didn’t know it then, but “weird” saved me.
I wish that I could go back in time to that 15-year-old girl and tell her that being weird would be the greatest achievement of her life, the greatest cosmic compliment. Weird lets you look at the world through some seriously bitchin’ lenses. Weird lets you cut through the vanilla bullshit that the world so quickly gobbles up.
Being weird is a gift.
When I started my business, Josie, I knew exactly what kind of client I wanted to work with. I wanted to serve people who were doing interesting things in the world. I wanted people with passion and moxie and stories of sleepless nights and oddball adventures. People who probably hate wearing socks and would rather clean toilets than drink a Budweiser. They most assuredly are the people who doodle brilliant ideas in a notebook during their kid’s 3-hour-long choir concert. They want to stand out in business and in life but can’t quite figure out how to do it with good words.
You can’t be a company for everyone, Josie. If you try to please everyone by taming your weirdness… your essence… your head-turning spirited intensity… you end up pleasing no one. We’ve talked a lot about “small corners” and how finding your 1% means everything. With everything I’ve got, I will continue to shove that idea into every nook and cranny of your grey matter… because I know what amazingness your bold little company is capable of producing.
And I know that your People are out there ready to embrace and join the weird parade. They are unpacking their freak flags as this very moment.
Oh, Josie… please don’t be afraid to tell weird stories. You know, the stories of your glorious humanness. About your long days of frenetic soul searching, of all of the tears and the ridiculously brilliant ideas scribbled into a pack of Moleskine journals. Of the decision to launch your bodacious business into the world.
You are not ordinary. Fitting in would be equivalent to a slow death. A death of self. You were meant to do great things. C’mon. You launched a fucking beer business, Josie, knowing that it would be an uphill battle to make your mark in a man’s world.
So when you ask, “Is the world ready for me?”, I want to throw a pie in your face. Not only because it would be great fun, but because it’s a ridiculous question. The world has never been more ready, Josie. We need your voice and your passion and your spark of mad genius.
Do you have any idea how mind-blowing it is to work with you to build this epic slice of life? I love telling your stories to the world.
Now, let’s get cracking on that new packaging copy, shall we?
The “Dear Josie” letters are a new feature of my blog and are posted the last week of every month. In each letter, I write to Josie Meacham, my ideal client and owner of the fictitious Bold Betty Brewing in Portland, Oregon. When I first launched Audacious Muse, hers was the first persona I created. Josie is the epitome of whom I want to serve… bold, irreverent, determined to make a difference. Each month, I give business storytelling advice to Josie in the form of a letter.