Have you ever felt that you’re a bit different? Do you own it or try to fit in?

My mum always used to say that I was uniquely like myself and that I came “floating down the rive on a plank” (this may be related to logging in those days). I never reflected much over the saying because I trusted that what my mother told me was good and that it pointed out some of my strengths. And that was the positive intent I grew up in my extended family.

It was only when I started writing this article that I looked up the actual meaning of the expression and found that it means “come out of nowhere”, which I think is kinda cool.

Always been a bit “same same and different” to people around me, My first ever public speech was aptly titled “My life as an Alien” where I told my story across cultures and continents, and hopefully took them on a journey.

I am a bridge and I am here to create a more connected world where we celebrate differences and everyone feels welcome, valued and inspired.

I was born near the Arctic Circle in Norway into a large, boisterous family where no topic was off limits for discussion. We were encouraged to be our unique selves & celebrate differences. In my teens I lived in Africa where I was the only white kid at my high school. A bit daunting, but what a blast!!! Everyone welcomed me with open arms, generosity, curiosity, and lots of laughter. I loved this culture of openness, inclusion, fairness and fun.

Acutely aware of my privilege, I have always been an advocate for creating diverse and inclusive cultures, speaking up against discrimination. Starting with my inclusive family, my country of birth, the colour of my skin, AND being exposed to people from all walks of life from the day I was born. I just didn’t realise how much intrinsic bias we all face.

However, there have been times where I too have banged my head against the wall  (or ceiling))… I was too direct, too loud, too confident, too technical, not technical enough, too old, too tall, too funky, no children… oh, and you can’t say that… My outspoken nature, egalitarian culture and loud voice is not commensurate with being a woman – at least not here.

But why are there different rules based on gender, culture, persona?

As part of my research into why girls are not interested in IT, my first discovery was the concept of identity and belonging, and the importance of being part of the peer group when you are 13-14-15… I think I missed that concept entirely because we travelled and lived in different places from the day I was born. I was so used to finding a new friends and connections that it didn’t really faze me. And to be honest, my neurospicy brain, 89% extrovert nature, and the sheer necessity of belonging, means I love, love, love meeting new people.

New people are interesting, exciting, and it doesn’t really matter if I can’t read them totally the first few times… It is when you get to know people that duplicity becomes hard to decipher and navigate for those of us who are wired a bit differently.

And as if just being different in one dimension wasn’t enough, I stumbled across intersectionality, and it blew my mind…. Intersectionality theory was coined by Dr Kimberlee Crenshaw already in 1989 when she was researching the unique barriers faced by black women in comparison to white women or black men.

Intersectionality acknowledges that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.

There are so many systemic challenges in society that hold people back, and I would love for us all to explore what it is like to face barriers so we can work together to break them down… and celebrate differences.

Let’s unleash and embrace uniqueness, celebrate differences, and foster inclusive cultures where we all feel at home and valued for our contribution

Starfish and Coffee

You’re probably wondering what on earth the title has to do with being different, so here goes…. I have been a Prince / The Sign / Prince fan since the early eighties. I swear I wanted to marry the genius despite the 20cm height difference. What an amazing talent.

The album Sign O’ The Times was released in 1987, coinciding with my graduation from university, and there was one song in particular that always stuck with me, namely Starfish and Coffee.

I do not think I had any idea about the content as my approach to music is rhythm that moves me first, and then occasionally lyrics… My partner is the complete opposite.

It was only when I was in my 50s and realised that I was a bit different to people around me that it came back to me… Yeah, yeah… my optimistic nature and rose coloured glasses mean that I can be a bit slow on the uptake… And because I looove people with different perspectives, I thought everyone did 😂

So, you know the expression “square peg in a round hole”? Well, it didn’t quite fit in with the way I thought… I am neither square nor round. So I adopted and adapted it to say “starfish in a tiny square box”, which is how I often feal… Starfish are such wondrous creatures with their many arms, funky colours, multiple textures and ability to sense things through multiple senses. I love that they have eyes at the ends of their arms.

A perfect example of a creature that is unique and fascinating

Anyhoo…. this made me think of Prince, and one of my favourite songs… So I went back to find out what it was about and according to my perception, it is about daring to be different.

Here is the chorus with the first intro for your convenience:

And here is a link to the original recording (no video in those days): https://youtu.be/SEJaV2X7XxY?si=Zdi8cX5yahXDBUzP

Have listen and a boogie, and I would love to hear what you are doing to unleash your uniqueness and celebrate differences.