O is for Original – Raven Oak

O is for Original

In today’s continuation of the A-Z Challenge, I give you:

O is for Original

It’s a common tale–an oddball child with talents is bullied relentlessly growing up because they are different. Sometimes it’s because the child is smarter than fellow peers, or sometimes it’s because they don’t share the expected religion or cultural identity of the region. Other times it could be because the child identifies as LGBTQIA. For me, it was a mix of many differences.

Being labeled as gifted & talented, I was much smarter than most of my peers and got along better with adults than kids my age. I felt things more than most. If the news discussed people in Africa dying of thirst, I would retreat to my room and cry in agony over their loss. It didn’t matter than I didn’t know them. The idea that others suffered caused me great pain.

As I grew older, I learned to hide my emotions because sharing them got me into trouble. People didn’t understand why “silly things” like poverty, disease, prejudice, and cruelty in perfect strangers affected me so. At home, it was a nuisance. Elsewhere, it was one more thing to separate me from everyone else.

Raven Oak middle school photo

The blunter, less-shy me (middle school)

I was painfully shy around strangers, because I never knew how they would react to the oddball in the room, yet I was too outspoken and blunt with those I knew well. I was honest to a fault and often taken advantage of since I trusted people to be as blunt and honest as me.

I was highly creative in multiple medias. I pissed off my classmates by learning an instrument over the weekend and jumping from beginning band to symphonic band (the top band). Then I made and stayed first chair. I wrote entire 300+ page novels over the summer breaks and drew illustrations on scrap paper shoved between the pages of  books.

When I wasn’t creating, my nose was always in a science fiction or fantasy book, an action considered evil by my classmates as magic was “of the devil” in most Texas towns. Worse still, I didn’t believe that folks different from myself were evil.

While my classmates hated on the non-Christians, the poor kids, the minorities, and the geeks in our school, I sought them out as a refuge because above all else, these were the folks who understood me. They didn’t care that I was who I was.

I was original. Unique. Different from the mainstream.

But it’s these differences that shaped me into who I am as not just a person, but a writer. If you don’t know me well, you typically won’t see certain sides of me. Sometimes new friends are shocked at my bluntness the first time they see it, because I hide who I am so well from strangers. It’s a defense mechanism built by years of bullying and abuse–often by my own family, who didn’t understand this weird creature in their midst anymore than I understood myself.

But the world of geekdom and writing has allowed me two things:

  • To be me. Unapologetically me. (I mean, authors are expected to be eccentric these days!)
  • To find a group of people who don’t care that I’m not ________. In the SF/F community, I’ve found my people, and they are mighty.

Our experiences shape and change us, and while I wouldn’t wish to repeat most of my K-12 career, I am thankful for how my adult life has turned out because of it.

Here's the Crazy Ones...quote

It wasn’t really Steve Jobs who said this. The quote was created by the Apple marketing team as a group for an ad. It’s often misattributed to Jobs and sometimes to Jack Kerouac.


This post is part of the A-Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays) in the month of May, I’ll be posting about people, places, books, games, and other things that influence me as a writer or add a certain magic to my life. Join me in April as we explore a Hodge-Podge of Influences & Wayward Treks through the Fantastical.

Read more A-Z Challenge Posts here.


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