Living on the margins is not something you put on a resume.
Most of the time it’s not considered an asset in any area of life. The only upside (“s/he knows a lot about life”) often ends up being a backhanded compliment, or an expression of pity.
The truth is that being an outsider is terribly lonely, even if you are good at switching between people and environments.
For example, one thing that gives me credibility in a workplace (a fascination with quick translation, and assessing complex ideas/tasks) makes for a difficult experience socially. I can talk all day about work and be fine, but I’m way too intense and think-y to feel comfortable in most social situations. Of course I’m fairly good at blending in, but that’s different from actually feeling like you belong somewhere.
Over time I’ve learned to embrace being strange, but there’s still plenty of friction. I went on a date a couple of months ago and the woman I had a beer with labeled me a “formal hippie” (whatever that is), and said I was too serious and a snob because I’d mentioned that I wanted to spend my time with people who were passionate about something in their lives.
But as any teenager who’s been uplifted by the power of rock & roll knows, there is great power in not fitting in, too.
I’ve lived on the margins in a variety of ways. I like exercise and even got far into long distance running but I’m by no means an athlete (not coordinated enough). I love the weird, the arcane, never walking the same ground twice, but I also respect and appreciate and am fairly aligned with a blue collar / workin’ man’s life. A line I use on my resume is about the ease with which I move between environments – “I’m as comfortable in the boardroom as I am on the street corner” – but there’s certainly no illusion on my part about belonging in either world.
Still, it means I get to focus on great ideas without necessarily being tied to where they exist, and that’s something I’m passionate about. Most people need to know where they fit in order to validate an idea, but I have no filter like that. I get to look at things and consider both how they exist and how they might exist in alternate form (positive, negative, or indifferent).
It also means that I get to observe and learn things other people can’t fit into the structure of their lives. As someone who spends a lot of time reading and thinking (I freely admit that I am a journalism / philosophy / analytical thought / social sciences junky), I’m usually relating social / personal and professional situations to an understanding of how humans work and what drives us. I’m awed by the power of connection, and by the depth and intensity of the human experience.
Now if I could just find a way to put that on a resume….
What kinds of things are you good at that feel like a blessing and a curse?