A taste of acceptance

Yesterday, I heard the news that Jonah Lomu, a former rugby player for New Zealand, passed away.

I have never met Jonah Lomu. But, I have bittersweet memories of the 1995 World Cup. He played such a central role in New Zealand reaching the finals.

For a month, I was able to connect with my father. We watched every game together, and it was “our” thing. The rest of my family had no interest in rugby at all. There were stats for the players, teams and games that I learned and recited. During the time, no one thought that I was weird when I did that. I was just another rugby fan.

I’m not really into sports and I’m definitely not a rugby fan. For a month though, I felt acceptance because what I was doing in my effort to learn everything that I could about the game was consistent with what everyone else was doing. I didn’t hear that I was weird for obsessing about every little detail. I was over-analysing, but it was acceptable.

Why can’t that detail-orientated part of me be acceptable all the time? Why is it acceptable in some instances but not in others?

These days, I’m no longer the awkward teenager that I was. I’m no longer desperately trying to fit in and feeling like a failure for not succeeding. These days, I’ve found people who accept me for me. It’s not universal though because larger society still doesn’t accept me for me and they don’t accept people like me. We’re expected to conform in order to fit in. Society is never expected to expand their acceptance to include us. We get told that if we want to fit in, we need to work at it. Our children hear the same messages.

But, back in 1995, I had a taste of the feeling that I have now with my friends and my community. I want everyone to be able to feel accepted like that always.

Back in 1995, Jonah Lomu was one of many people who made that possible for me, and I will always be eternally grateful for that. It gave me a sense that things would not always be so bad. It gave me the sense that I would be able to find acceptance without changing who I was. I’ve found that properly now, and I hope everyone else can too.

Rest in Peace, Mr Lomu.