By Inara Scott
As a kid, I would wait impatiently every holiday season for the cartoon specials to come on television. No DVDs or videos back then, just a show that would air on the regular stations and if you missed it, that was it. No Frosty the Snowman until the next year. Of course, I loved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but I must admit to being completely freaked out by the Island of Misfit Toys. For those who haven’t seen the show, or don’t remember, in Rudolph’s world, if you weren’t a perfect toy you would be exiled to the Island of Misfit Toys, a sort of horrible purgatory-slash-hell, where you would wait endlessly every year for Christmas, hoping to be taken away to be given to a child, to no avail.
If you don’t remember just how scary the Island was, watch this video. It will bring back nightmares:
It was chilling. And a perfect commentary on the popular belief about the unloveability of people or things that aren’t Just So. Inhabitants of the island included a toy train with square wheels, a spotted elephant, a cowboy riding an ostrich, a Charlie-in-the-box, and a sad doll (I never did figure out what was wrong with her). Yet the older that I got, the more I realized just how ridiculous this was. Because the more that you ask people about where they fit in, you realize that everyone sees themselves as just minutes away from being exiled to the Island, if they aren’t there already.
Really, we’re all misfit toys.
Not unlike the Charlie-in-the-box, I happen to be a romance writer who also teaches law and writes treatises on clean energy policy. I am a proud feminist and also a sucker for the movie Pretty Woman. I don’t wear makeup, but I love shopping. I enjoy doing yoga, but sometimes I sneak a glance at my Twitter feed while I’m supposed to be deep in savasana.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t quite get anything right. Then I remember that neither does anyone else.
Here’s a little experiment—go ask three of your best friends if they feel like they “fit in.” Could be at work, in social settings, or in their roles as stay-at-home moms or single woman. I bet they will tell you there’s something holding them back. They love staying home with their kids, but they feel like they missed out on the homemaker gene, and hate making fancy cakes for their kids’ birthdays. Or maybe they have a busy career, but have a hard time paying attention in meetings when they come across the Legos they stashed in their pockets that morning.
Maybe your friend is single, but she secretly longs to stay home on Friday nights when everyone else seems to be having a great time at going out and partying. Or maybe your friend works at a steakhouse restaurant and is a vegetarian.
After years going to conferences and being in meetings where I felt like I wasn’t quite right—didn’t quite fit in—I started asking people these questions. Tell me more about yourself—not the stuff that is the same, but the stuff that’s different. What part of you stands out? What part of you feels out of place? I was surprised to find that everyone felt the same way I did. No one fits perfectly. We’re all secretly convinced that we’re headed for the Island of Misfit Toys.
Here’s the best part: it’s the imperfect, unusual part of ourselves that makes us special. There was a bird on the Island of Misfit Toys that could swim, and a water pistol that shot jelly. How much more fun would those toys be than a plain old parakeet or a water gun? In my latest novel, Falling for Mr. Wrong, my heroine is a high-altitude mountaineer—who also happens to be clumsy and terrified of going on her next climb. She definitely doesn’t fit into the box that life built around her. My hero is a single dad with three kids who thinks he’s got to play it safe to be a good dad to his kids. He’s got a lot to learn about taking risks and visiting the Island.
We are constantly bombarded with images in the media of people who are getting it “right.” They’ve got the perfect career, the perfect body, or the perfect family. But guess what? There’s a lot more of us on the Island of Misfit Toys than there are of those perfect ones. When you think about it, they’re the ones who don’t really fit in.
Poor things. Poor little misfits.
But we’ll be nice to them, won’t we? After all, there’s always more room on the Island.
Inara Scott is a proud misfit, cheesy movie addict, believer in happily ever after, and the author of many novels for teens and adults. Her latest novel is Falling for Mr. Wrong (from Entangled Publishing). You can find Inara on her website at www.inarascott.com, on Twitter at @inarascott, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/inarawrites.