Outside the box.
Once upon a time there was a box...
And there was a little girl who just didn't fit that box.
Everywhere she went this girl could see the box, and almost everyone else that she met seemed to fit inside it. They looked happy in there; content and comfortable and almost carefree.
The box was at school with her each day. The teacher was in there - and most of the children. The lessons and the worksheets fit the box too. But she didn't. The children in the box didn't disagree much with the teacher, didn't ask for different work and didn't start to worry about all sorts of things that weren't even happening yet. But she did.
The box was at parties with her on the weekends. All the other people would dance and run and giggle inside the box. But she didn't. There weren't enough rules in the box, and hardly any explanations, and the children in there didn't feel the need to stop and ask why they were playing. But she did.
The box was even with her family. Her parents seemed to fit into it quite well, although she noticed some dents where she thought they might have had to bend it a little over the years. Her cousins and aunties and uncles all seemed to fit in perfectly. They chatted loudly and grinned broadly at family gatherings. But she didn't. Her relatives didn't feel uncomfortable with the crowd and the noise, didn't feel the need to keep quiet or to talk too much to try to get back in control of this crazy situation. But she did.
Her teachers sighed with frustration and wondered why she couldn't just fit the box and get on with it like everyone else.
Her friends, and their parents, rolled their eyes and wondered who she thought she was for refusing to get into the box.
Her relatives joked about her and thought they were only teasing for her own good when they tried to push her into the box.
Her own parents didn't want to sigh or roll their eyes or push her. They wanted to know her, to understand her and to support her. They didn't want to force her to fit the box. But sometimes, just sometimes, they wanted things to be easier, for her to be more like everyone else...and sometimes she knew that they felt like that.
Sometimes she tried to fit the box. She knew what it looked like to fit the box. She had seen so many other people in there, so she knew what she had to do to get inside. She would squash herself and squeeze herself to try to fit in. But even when she just about managed to get in she found that she felt too uncomfortable and soon she would burst back out again.
One day her parents took her to meet someone who knew a lot about boxes. This person knew that there was more than one box, and that nobody had to squeeze into a box that they didn't truly fit in to. This person explained to her, and her parents, that she would live her life with a different kind of box; the kind that had a gift inside. For it turns out that she had a gift inside herself.
Her gift was not ordinary and so it didn't fit into the same type of box that most other people felt comfortable in. The box that would fit her gift wasn't better or worse than the other box. It was just different, because she was different. She could be happy for the people who fit the other box, as it is a perfectly lovely box, but she could be proud of her gift too.
So she made a box for her gift. She built strong walls, so she would feel safe, but she made sure she could move the walls so she would never feel stuck. She made sure her box had no lid, because she didn't want to be alone in there and she always wanted to be able to reach up to the sky.
Eventually her teachers, her friends and her relatives started to recognise the unique shape of her box. They didn't always understand it, because they didn't fit her box any better than she fit theirs, but at least they could see it now. They didn't often ask her to fit their box anymore because they could see she was happy, content and comfortable where she was. And when someone didn't notice her box, or didn't know why it was such an odd shape, her parents would gently explain that the box had to be that strange shape to protect the wonderful gift inside.
Sometimes she visited the other box, for she had lots of friends there. Sometimes she invited people into her box, and she shared with them her unique way of looking at the world.
Then one day she looked around and realised that she couldn't even see the boxes anymore. She didn't see everyone else as stuck in the same box, because she had grown to know so many different people with all sorts of beautifully misshapen boxes. She didn't need her own box anymore, because her gift was strong enough now to roam free in the world.
All of the cardboard walls were gone and she was just happy knowing who she was.
Written by Jessica Langford