When I decided that I needed to find a therapist to talk with about “big stuff” going on in my life these days, one thing was clear. S/he needed to speak Spanish as well as English*. And on the face of it, I understand that it probably seems odd that someone as quintessentially Anglo as I am would feel so strongly about that.

The thing is, speaking Spanish is a key part of who I am. It makes me different from the Anglo women out there who don’t speak Spanish (the ones who speak French, or Kiswahili, or Esperanto, for example). I don’t think, or probably even feel,  in English 100% of the time. I didn’t want to have to translate those parts of me back into English in order for my therapist to be able to work with me. When you’re multi-lingual, you’re different. You’re other.

That realization led me to think back across the years, about my otherness. Even as a little girl, I knew I wasn’t quite like the rest of the kids. I skipped from first to second grade mid-way through the year, and while it meant that I was a lot more challenged by, and interested in, my school work, it also set me off as really, really different — at age six.

I remember feeling it keenly in high school, too — even more than most high schoolers do. By then, I’d learned to “pass,” and it did make things a little easier. I fit in, mostly. But I didn’t date, and I had a pretty small orbit of close friends, though lots of acquaintances who signed my yearbook “to a great kid.” It was with a real sense of freedom that I got to college, where there were a lot of other others, just like me.

My life has been that way ever since. I’ve lived in a couple of countries, traveled to a bunch more, and have been at the receiving end of a lot of stares. In Paris, people were always looking at my shoes. In Tokyo, I got that stare-plus-sucking-in-air expression that the Japanese use when they’re really surprised by something. Here at home, I’m just as other for having ventured offshore.

And over the years, I’ve learned that being other is just grand. I’ve got a bunch of really interesting friends, all over the world. Some are expats here in the U.S.; some have lived overseas and returned. They are musicians, artists, academics. We talk about just about anything, and despite our superficial differences, we are more human than anything else. Other is good.

As Zippy the Pinhead may have said, “Why be normal?” (He also said, “All life is a blur of Republicans and meat.” My hero.)

*I hit the jackpot. She speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean Creole.