The Value of Being an Outsider

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My friends Rose and Jeffrey are outsiders. They were born to poor but striving Chinese immigrant families. They met in college, where Jeffrey was learning engineering, and have been married for 40 years.

Sounds like a common story, but there isn’t much else typical about them…

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12 Responses to The Value of Being an Outsider

  1. DJ Woolley says:

    Works for me – where do I sign up?

  2. Since the second world war there has been a great movement of people across the globe, now estimated at 200 million living outside the country or nation of birth, so the unthinkable dilemmas arise, as told by BBC yesterday, How to Observe Ramadan fasting in the Arctic circle?
    I have been fortunate to travel around the world on a regular basis, in fact I am always somewhere else, and I am grateful for the wonderful people I have met on the road, all of them so different from one another. I am a citizen of one country, maintain a home in another, but spend time in two other countries on a regular basis. Compartmentalization of ones lives, is what came to my mind when I read David’s blog. It is true my friends in Indonesia would be out of place in Havana, who would not fit in well with my friends in France, who would find it uneasy with the literary crowd of India.
    One other disadvantage of being an EO, I might add, is that, many people would think that you are lying when you try to explain what is that you do …
    Best wishes and Shalom

  3. Laurie says:

    This article has helped me unload a pile of self-judgement that has accumulated over the years (that I never felt as a teenager, for some reason, even though I was a misfit then). Thanks a lot. I feel a lot freer now and will share the article with others!

  4. Jeffrey says:

    I’ll link to this thoughtful post in the next Bayview Footprints Local News, David. It resonnates with me, absolutely!

  5. Donna Vogel says:

    Fascinating, David. I guess I am a semi-EO, as I have needed to fit in for various personal and professional reasons – but have always been comfortable with those outside my boxes. Whether generational, gender, racial/ethnic etc. I’m thinking we are the Gladwellian Connectors.

  6. Nurse Tim of The Yukon says:

    Oh, I liked this one. Never heard of the term “EO”, but seems like you nailed it, David.
    Yes, I feel a bit exposed, having just been described to a “T”, but I’m comfortable with it by now, and, you’re right, it does make for an interesting life.

    I was born an EO, on an island in the Caribbean, the only white baby in the hospital. But there are benefits: I am positive that I was definitely NOT switched at birth, and being an EO lends itself to being comfortable wherever and with whomever you find yourself.
    Think of it as being just the opposite of ethnocentric, ahem.

    I was at a conference in Anchorage the other day, listening to some authority on diabetes, talking something about statistical analysis. Something rose up in me and I commented in a room full of people, “You know, if we keep studying this without doing anything to actually help them, some day we may have no more diabetics left to study”.
    I know you were there in spirit, and that’s what made me brave. Thanks for being you.

    So, yes, being a Enigmatic Opportunist has its moments, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China. Chief Paul of Beaver says hi.

  7. Donna, what is a Gladwellian Connector?
    Nurse Tim, say hi to Chief Paul for me. I wrote about him briefly for a new book called Diabetes Heroes, about people reversing Type 2. I’ll send you and him copies when it comes out. I like your “Enigmatic Opportunist.”

  8. Fran Spector says:

    Comment on Outsiders article: Hmm, seems I’ve found a group I can fit in with at long last.
    More seriously, I definitely identify with much of the “EO” profile. But I have also found in my life the benefits of identifying and joining a structured community that alligns with my interests and supports many of my core values. I’ve found that I can enrich my own life as well as make a sustained contribution as an “insider” because I have made a committment to the welfare of the group and the individuals in it. My group is a performing arts organization, grounded in another culture with a strong tradition of community and service, minus the oppressiveness and rigidity of organized religion. So I guess that makes me an “EI” – eclectic insider.

  9. Fran, I agree with you that being an insider can be good, if you have the right group to be inside. You can only accomplish so much without really committing. We’re blessed to live in a time and place where so many options are available, and I’m glad you’ve found one that works for you.

    I do think, though, that EO is an identity that can at least provide support and comfort, and that EOs have a valuable place, even if it is on the outside. Aisha and I are thinking of throwing a big picnic or party and inviting anyone who identifies. You will be invited when it happens.

  10. June Spero says:

    Can I come too? I might feel at home there but probably not.

  11. Dan Brook says:

    So insightful, David, thanks; that explains a lot. I’ve thought about the concept quite a bit (e.g., Alexis de Toqueville, Jacob Riis, Jacob Holdt), but never really applied it to myself.

    Brook’s Minority:
    Minorities will know more about majorities than majorities know about minorities and, sometimes, even more than majorities will know about themselves.

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