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Standing Out in a Pack of Wolves} ?> I grew up in a land of extroverted sports fans. As an introverted geek, I didn’t fit in. My love of writing, drawing, fangirling, reading encyclopedias, and spending the day engrossed in fantasy novels didn’t score me a lot of friends. Growing up, many of my friends and family told me my interests were weird and pushed me to like other things. I felt like an outcast, much like Mowgli in the 2016 movie, The Jungle Book.
Mowgli is a man-cub living among wolves. He has a talent for creating things from the materials around him (he makes ropes from vines, a pail from a turtle shell, and a knife from broken rocks, among other things). Bagheera and the pack urge him to desert his “tricks” and be more like a wolf, forcing Mowgli to suppress his interests. He does his best to try to conform, but it just isn’t natural for him.
I listened to the Bagheeras around me and tried pursuing different interests. I attempted to be a veterinarian assistant, a skeet shooter, and a softball player, but they just weren’t me. They didn’t feel natural. In fact, the more I looked into them, the more they felt like the opposite of who I am.
It’s hard feeling like the only man-cub in a pack of wolves that are telling me I need to be more like them. I have a friend who is the only writer among a family of sports players. It took her years to convince them that writing is a worthwhile career. I lived with a father who didn’t like reading at all. To this day, he still doesn’t understand my passion for writing. Since I’ve started pursuing writing as a career, hearing phrases like “Are you still writing?” are hard to bear.
Not until Mowgli encounters Baloo does he finally receive encouragement and praise for his skills. Thus Mowgli begins to gain confidence in himself. Later in the film, King Louie even covets him for these talents, talents so special they enable Mowgli to defeat Sher-Khan. Near the end of The Jungle Book, Mowgli’s family and Bagheera finally recognize that Mowgli is special and that’s okay:
“Stay here!” Bagheera shouts.
Mowgli tries to push his paws away. “But I want to fight like the wolves!”
“You can’t fight him like a wolf! You’re not a wolf!” Bagheera smiles. “Fight him like a man.”
I want to prove to others my talents are special. Sometimes I can. Other times I just have to accept that I can’t please everyone. My dreams give me a drive to do something bigger than myself. They give me a fire that fuels me and helps me grow. I’m a passionate person, and pursuing my passions is what makes me feel alive. I want to leave a mark on this world that lasts long after I’m gone. I want to try to do something that leaves the world a little better than it was before. Thankfully, I had Baloos growing up who encouraged me to pursue my talents. I had the support of my mother, my friends, and even a bestselling author.
Many people don’t have that support and abandon their dreams. If Mowgli had done that, Sher-Kahn probably would have lived on. If I had done that, I may have felt better temporarily, but at what expense?
The pressure to conform can be disheartening, especially in a difficult and competitive career like writing, when success feels far and in between. Being different is difficult, but being different can also be rewarding. I’ve gone places in life where other people haven’t. I’ve thought up ideas other people have never dreamed of.
Just because a talent is unusual doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’ve embraced that I’m unique. I’ve embraced that my talents aren’t those commonly accepted in society and that that’s okay. Like, Mowgli I will always have pieces of the family that raised me, but I’d rather persevere out of joy than fit in and be miserable. I’d rather be who I am than pretend to be what I’m not.