Over the past week I have spent at least half of my waking hours listening to “Feel Special” by Twice, at this point my favorite Twice song by far. I love upbeat dance pop because it both matches and fuels my cheery and energetic day to day personality. I most appreciate “Feel Special” because within its positive and uplifting grooves, it contains more melancholy lyrics about feeling alone, motionless, and without purpose.
These more somber lyrics spurred me to reflect on my own history of feeling misunderstood and isolated. Growing up, I felt distanced from most of my peers because, at least on the surface, they tended to care about popularity and grades whereas I wanted to find a way to get out of my household and to find meaning in what felt like a hopeless existence. This feeling of otherness followed me into undergrad, where I at first struggled to cope with my PTSD before later healing and thriving. Throughout high school and early undergrad, I had supportive friends who did their best and who I still feel so grateful for, though at the same time I always felt older than them, like I occupied a different and more isolating realm of angst.
These feelings shifted when I went to long-term therapy for the first time in undergrad and when I started to read and reread Appetites by Caroline Knapp. In one of my initial sessions with my therapist L, I told him that I do not get angry, unlike other humans; he saw through that and encouraged me to express my anger, that I could do so using direct communication without turning into my mother. When I read Appetites, I thought to myself: finally, someone who gets it, someone who’s relentlessly reflective about both themselves and the greater world, who questions how society teaches women and femme folks to use thinness and men and awards as proxies for self-love and self-fulfillment. I remember with great fondness some of my favorite therapy sessions with L, the ones that involved me reading long passages from my abundantly-bookmarked copy of Appetites and then looking up at him with an expression on my face like, isn’t this so amazing?
Now, the days when I feel misunderstood feel much less frequent. I have two best friends who value independence, communication, art, social justice, and not settling for mediocre men as much as I do, as well as other friends and acquaintances who I check in with every now and then. I write on this blog and read mostly kind comments and the occasional direct message that makes me smile and feel that some of what I share helps in developing folks’ self-compassion and motivation to question oppressive social structures. In moments of despair, I return to Appetites and I read, journal, and self-reflect.
I still do sometimes feel misunderstood or disconnected. I feel isolated or even annoyed when people talk about compulsory heteronormative practices like weddings or having kids without feminist critique. I want to distance myself when those in my professional circles glorify researchers – even social justice-oriented ones – without recognizing how that glorification can contribute to the minimization of the harm that academics perpetrate on vulnerable groups (e.g., grad students). At times I still I wish I had an older queer Asian American male role model who loved himself regardless of his connection to a romantic partner.
I see now though the merits of feeling misunderstood or feeling lonely. These emotions act as signals for what I’m currently wanting, what I’m in the process of searching for. Feeling misunderstood pushes me to cultivate community with folks who question societal norms and who value intrinsic self-love more than external forms of validation. Loneliness motivates me to act as my own self-compassionate and self-loving queer Asian male role model. I don’t think I was wrong to feel misunderstood or lonely as a child or adolescent, because I was. I wanted more from others and more from myself. Though my current feelings of connection with myself and others may ebb and flow as the years go on, I’m celebrating that at least right now, these relationships do indeed make me feel understood, loved, and special.
Have you felt misunderstood or lonely in your life at any point? And if so, how have you coped with those feelings? General reactions or feelings in relation to this post? Also omg because I probably won’t make a separate post about it, if anyone else is a fan of “Feel Special” feel free to share in the comments because I am obsessed with the song: the iconic halftime prechorus, the uplifting synths and melodies in the chorus, the wrist flick choreo in the dance break outro UGH Twice did that even though I still find their like pre-2019 output aside from “Likey” unfulfilling. Until next post!