I was lucky enough to go to a culturally diverse school and one which also had lots of students with disabilities including a couple of paralympians. It was common to see people of all ethnic backgrounds sharing lunch on the quadrangle; Sri Lankan’s with Vietnamese, Chinese students hanging out with Bosnian kids and us Anglo Saxon kids just wanted to hang out with all of them because they were more interesting than we were. There were also skinheads, punks, surfie dudes, nerds, regular kids, kids struggling with gender issues, gay kids and roaming packs of girls stopping every five minutes to touch up their makeup and pout in a mirror.
I grew up seeing difference as normal.
Mixing with people of all cultures, genders, persuasions, and interests was what I thought society was like as a whole. So when I ended up changing schools and moving to a regional area where it was just mainly white kids I couldn’t believe how ‘difference’ was frowned upon and how people were picked on and bullied just because they may have their hair shorter than everyone else. (yes I was the one with the hair shorter than everyone else)
I soon realised that most kids grow up in a similar environment and it can be very tough if you’ve either got an obvious difference or feel different on the inside, to be comfortable in your own skin.
Everyone is different and for me it’s about giving people the courage and support to stand tall in their difference and not feel belittled or made to feel out of place because of it. Our differences bring us together and help us understand each other.
When a child is able to feel comfortable in how they look, how they think, and how they feel on the inside, then we give them permission to be their true selves and the rewards for them and society as a whole are enormous.
Life is not about staying stuck in our own world of sameness it’s about expanding outwards, growing, learning, exploring and embracing.
Being You is Enough and other Important Stuff (Big Sky Publishing) is in all good book shops in Australia and online at Booktopia
About Josh Langley
Writer, illustrator, daydreamer
After failing high school twice and spending a ridiculous amount of time being unemployed, Josh went onto create a successful career as an award winning radio creative writer spanning 20 years. He’s published four books, draws the Frog and the Well cartoons and writes for many magazines and blogs.