thoughts

don’t underestimate the spacey side character

I’m not the hugest fan of YA lit. It’s okay, but I just prefer to read about characters my own age, with similar challenges as mine or that I can at least empathize with. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight as much as the next grown woman. But just saying, in general, YA isn’t my thing. So imagine my dismay when, about 50 pages into Leia, Princess of Alderaan, I realized it was a YA book. Augh! At my age, I have no issue whatsoever with choosing not to finish a book. There are way too many books on my TBR list to waste any time on a book that I’m not connecting with. But there was this one passage that piqued my curiosity, and I knew I needed to read on to learn more about this character.

It’s early in the book, and the teenagers of the Apprentice Legislature are in the midst of a team-building exercise, where they were abandoned at the top of a mountain and must work together to find their way down safely before sunset. Needless to say, most of the kids are laser-focused on successfully completing the mission and demonstrating their value. But there is one girl named Amilyn, who is introduced as a brightly-dressed character whose hair is a new, bold color every time you see her.

Amilyn, who had clambered atop a stump, peered into the knothole of the nearest tree. “Nope,” she said in her singsong voice, “no snow owls here either.”

Kier had kept his temper so far, but this comment made him squint at Amilyn up on her perch. “Why are you looking for snow owls?”

“Why wouldn’t I look for snow owls?”

Apparently Kier couldn’t think of a good answer. After a long, silent moment, he nodded as though to say, Fair point.

Leia, Princess of Alderaan – Claudia Gray

While everyone else hones in on the necessarily details to descend the mountain (tracks, memorable landmarks, and other clues), Amilyn is looking for snow owls because… why not? She’s got a Luna Lovegood quality about her (there I go again), where she comes across as a bit spacey and odd, but you know there is more to her than meets the eye. I suspect that just as Luna did for Harry, Amilyn will show Leia another way to look at things, a new perspective that will make her sharper and stronger.

I connect so strongly with these characters. I am not particularly inventive in my personal style, I don’t read magazines upside-down, and I’ve always been way too preoccupied with what other people think of me. But I tend to approach things just a little bit differently than everyone else.

What’s truly wonderful is when you find people who appreciate what you bring to the party and don’t expect you to think the same as everyone else. I was at a PTA meeting the other night, and if you’ve never been to a PTA meeting, it’s all business. Budgets and social event planning and field trips. My job is to plan the restaurant night fundraisers. Early in the meeting, I gave my update about our upcoming Chipotle restaurant night, and then the meeting continued on while my mind started thinking about food. Someone directed a question my way and I said “Huh? Sorry, I was still thinking about Chipotle.” Everyone got a good laugh about it, and I’m finally at a place in my life where I can laugh along.

In my last job, I was on an all-male leadership team, and we did one of those character assessments that is intended to help identify each person’s unique strengths and how they work together to create a strong team. By the way, I love that stuff, and I’m totally in my element when we do things like this, while everyone else rolls their eyes and complains about how much work they have to do. So, we did the assessments and shared our results. Nearly every person in the room had strengths like “achiever,” “focus,” “discipline,” and “competition.” Mine were “ideation,” “harmony,” and “relator.” Um, you can probably imagine what our team dynamic was like. And by the way, let me clarify that it’s not like they had “masculine” strengths and I had “feminine” strengths. Most of the women I worked with were also in the “achiever” and “competition” group. One of my senior VPs even asked me how I managed to survive in tech!

And it’s true, sometimes I don’t know how I do. I can sit in a project meeting at work where everyone talks about details and facts and projections, all the while lost in my thoughts as I find myself thinking “what will it look like,” or “how will we tell our friends about it,” or “how will my team react to this change?” It’s like I’m looking for snow owls while everyone around me navigates the mountain without realizing there are snow owls to find, because that’s not the assignment.

Other times, I realize that my company/team needs me. There are so many of them and so few of me, and the perspective I bring is valuable and different and impactful! Have you seen the movie The Last Jedi? If you have, you may recognize Amilyn as Amilyn Holdo, Vice Admiral in the Resistance played by Laura Dern. So, I’m just saying, if you’re a fellow Amilyn or Luna, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. They may have an inherent bias against your approach or personality, but if you find a good company that understands diversity and doesn’t want a leadership team of clones, you will stand out and shine and make a difference. And if you’re a Hermione or a Leia, just keep an open mind.

Warming to her subject, Leia said, “Then there’s this girl from Gatalenta named Amilyn Holdo who is… let’s say, a little odd.”

Her father shook his head in affectionate disbelief. “I trust your judgment, Leia, but don’t be too quick to write people off. Sometimes they can surprise you.”

As for me, next time someone calls on me in a meeting at work when I’m not paying attention, I’m going to say, “sorry, I was thinking about snow owls.” Because why not?

One Comment

  • Leo

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! Especially in teams where there are several “competitive achievers” the Luna Lovegoods are absolutely the ones who keep it functioning. It’s always about balance. Especially when it comes to social dynamics. 🙂