Wednesday, 4 October 2017


What does it mean to be an outsider? I’ve felt like an outsider all of my life. In fact my earliest memory is of watching myself on an old camcorder recording; my parents were smiling at the camera as they bathed my new born sister in the living room until a bright yellow football splashed water all over them as it flew into my sister’s little plastic bathtub. Then 3 year old me clumsily swaggered into shot before being scorned at and retreating off camera again. My parents carefully lifted my sister from the little tub and wrapped her in a towel, then little me excitedly burst on screen again holding a bottle of baby powder and with sweet, ignorant enthusiasm poured talcum powder into the new-born’s eyes. My sister cried, my parents screamed and yelled and little me was once again exiled to off screen, banished from this new family dynamic.

In Primary school I kept up my ‘outsider’ lifestyle, spending my playtimes in isolation, wandering around the playground, lost in a day dream. I’ve hardly changed since then.

In high school I was still an ‘outsider’ but not the cool kind like ‘The Criminal’ John Bender from the Breakfast Club, more ‘The Basket Case’ Allison. I walked around timidly and anxiously, in a dirty uniform, with dark greasy hair hanging down my forehead, looking down at the floor with hunched shoulders. I socialised in a small, ‘weird’ group. I was mocked for talking about things like Star Wars and Marvel, oh how the times have changed.

So, I can confidently say that I’ve always been an ‘outsider.’ But, what is an outsider? If you google the meaning, it says someone who doesn’t belong. Belong to what? What does that actually mean? I know what it is to belong, but what is an absence of belonging?

When I think of the word ‘outsider’ I imagine your typical dark protagonist, anti-hero type. The type that wears denim and leather jackets, the type who lives on the fringes of society because he plays by his own rules. We romanticise this idea of the ‘outsider’ in films, turn him into the cool rebel. But being an ‘outsider’ doesn’t make you a rebel. When I was an ‘outsider’ in high school I longed to be a fearless rebel, for all those people who looked down on me to think I was ‘cool’ and ‘edgy.’ But I followed the school rules, timidly walked the halls and did my best to hide away from everyone else, while standing on the outside looking in. I wasn’t an ‘outsider’ because I was different. I was an ‘outsider’ because I was rejected by the majority, mostly for being different, but being an ‘outsider’ isn’t about choosing to be different, it’s about being rejected. In cinema we refer to ‘rebels’ as ‘outsiders’ and call the true ‘outsiders’ things like ‘geeks,’ ‘nerds,’ ‘losers’ and ‘freaks.’

I remember watching comedian Simon Anstell talking about his craft and how he’ll rather unhealthily not experience emotions and experiences such as being dumped, and instead will watch himself from the outside, making notes on how to convert it into stand-up material. Russell Brand in his first book ‘My Booky Wook’ articulated a similar mind-set along with feelings of rejection and loneliness. This sense of distancing yourself seemed to develop how they work. Alice Cooper was always said to appeal to the ‘outsider’ though he was never described as an ‘outsider’ himself. He’s an ‘innovator’ an ‘artist’ a ‘rebel’ a ‘rock star.’ He was also an alcoholic. I think that’s where this romanticisation of the ‘outsider’ comes from; the poor rejected freak biting back, rejecting the norms of society, rebelling against convention and transforming himself into something ‘different,’ something greater. The ‘outsider’ turns the tables, no longer is he the one on the outside looking in, he’s the one being looked at. But it’s a defence mechanism, one of many ways the ‘outsider’ copes. Some live happy lives, finding comfort in small but loving social circles, a passion whether it be music or Dungeons & Dragons. Some live angry lives, like the bikers and the criminals. Some turn to substance abuse. We are all different and we all deal with being branded an ‘outsider’ differently, but responding to the world differently isn’t what made us ‘outsiders.’ To be an outsider, is to experience rejection and loneliness.

I Don’t Want to Be A Rebel Anymore
Mum, I don’t want to be a rebel anymore
It feels like I’m knocking on heaven’s door
Only I don’t think Gabriel is gonna let me in
Because mum, I’ve dedicated my life to sin
Please, teach me to stop being a rebel
Because life has worn this rolling stone down to a pebble
I drink all night and I sleep all day
My youth is wasting away
It stings when I piss
And there are scars on my wrist
Bags under my eyes and a pain in my chest
So I give up, I’ll be like all the rest
Wrap a tie around my neck just like a noose
Because canons aren’t supposed to be loose
I’ll get up early in the morning to iron my shirt
Because mum, I’m sick of all the hurt
I’ll have normal children and a normal wife,
Hang up my leather jacket and live a normal life
I’ll buy her white pearls and the kid’s lots of toys
But I won’t let the babies grow up to be cowboys
Please mummy, tell Dad to open the door
Living as an artist has made me sad, lonely and poor.
I can’t remember what it feels like to be alive
So I might as well work 9-5
When your trapped all you want is to roam
But once you’re a freebird you just want to fly home
So I’ll go home and marry a nice Irish girl,
Give this normal life thing a whirl
I thought I wanted to be free
But the truth is that I just don’t like being me
This life is grinding me down to the nub
So, I’ll stagger out of the pub
Pull myself out of my favourite bar wench
And lock myself behind a white picket fence
I’ll smash my guitar and bury all my guns
Just Watch ITV and do the school runs
If I could start again,
I’d be like all the other men
But you get what reap
And I refused to be a sheep
I chose to be rebel instead
And now I’m good as dead
Mummy, I’m worn out, this life is one big chore.
So let me back in, because I don’t want to be a rebel anymore. 

Cheers to all the outsiders,
All my love,


Steve Rowland said...

Sean, this is a great debut! I latched onto the ides of an absence of belonging. It's a powerful and heart-felt piece of writing and a fine poem. Thank you.

Adele said...

Fantastic Sean - the poem really hits home.

Anonymous said...

Rhyming verse is so very passé these days, dear, yet perhaps this is also what it means to occupy a space "on the outside?" If so, have you considered staying there?