Making Peace With My Weirdness (Guest Post by Holly Pennington)

Red Plaid Doc MartensToday I’m delighted to welcome my friend Holly Pennington to my blog. Holly is a uniquely gifted writer, blogger from near Seattle, US.  She writes about vulnerability, and faith, and has so much wisdom to share. Take it away Holly!


I’ve never tried to be weird. But I have always felt weird. No purple spiky hair, grunge obsessions or gothic dress phases. Not even a single tiny hidden tattoo. Growing up in the 1980’s, I was a predictable Guess jeans-wearing suburban kid.

But I did own a pair of red plaid Doc Martens once. To be exact, I was only part-owner. My sister and I shared them. We simultaneously fell in love with them but Doc Martens weren’t cheap, so we each paid half. When I went away to college, I took them with me just until my next visit home; then, her turn. Being part-time keeper of the boots somehow made my love for them stronger.

Treading across the Wake Forest University quad, an insecure thumb tucked under each backpack strap and self-conscious eyes fixed downward, the surprise of my feet clad in red plaid filled me with a distinct burst of joy. I felt daring in my Doc Martens. My connection to them was made of courage, awe and a tinge of rebellion.

But, what made me feel weird was not my style; it was my interests.

My C.V. of hobbies is a bizarre collection of art classes and museum volunteering, copious notetaking on books read for pleasure, and teaching myself to mix colors and knit.

It all started in college. (I blame the Doc Martens.) As an Exercise Science major, I giddily registered for electives like Beginning Drawing and Piano 101. I possessed no art skills, and my entire music background consisted of playing the clarinet just long enough to satisfy my high school arts credit requirement. I wasn’t brave, or even confident, in those years; I just felt like I might be an artist.

I was curious. I had to explore.

Drawing turned into a glassblowing class at my university town’s community center. A few searching middle-agers, eager elderly women and me, college girl, standing side by side blowing glass bubbles through a pipe. Shouldn’t I have been out partying or holed up in a quiet library cubicle? Weird. (And hard, by the way…blowing glass bubbles that don’t burst requires incomprehensible amounts of calm focus and perfect timing.)

These were also the years of discovering bookstores. I read entire books sitting on their creaky floors, mentally bookmarking my page number before reshelving the book so I could come back to it the next day. A Doc Marten-like feeling of rebellion enveloped me as I filled my journal with notes and favorite passages from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water before returning it to its proper place. Reading had never been more than a necessary evil to get good grades in school, then, all of the sudden, books were spellbinding. But I was pretty sure that my approach was, well, weird.

Accepting The Weirdness

Post-graduation: a zigzag of artistic phases. Watercolor classes in a converted backyard shed in Boulder, Colorado. Commuting ninety minutes each way to a calligraphy class that thrust me once again into the role of “which one of these doesn’t belong” as I was more than twenty years younger than my co-calligraphers. Weird. A two-year stint as a volunteer art museum docent. Endless hours after work spent tediously mixing tiny amounts of watercolor tube paint based on the book, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green. (I know, really weird.) And then there was teaching myself to knit hats and scarves during my “Apartment Days,” an eighteen-month period during the Great Recession when nothing in life was certain.

Chasing art without aspiring to be an artist made me feel weird.

I knew I would never become a glassblower or calligrapher. Articulating why I was in those classes was nearly impossible at the time. Being the youngest one, the one with a job (I was building a career as a Physical Therapist during all of this), the one who drove from so far away, was never comfortable.

At home, my shelves overflowed with obscure calligraphy nibs, handspun knitting yarn, and volumes of handwritten transcribed passages from “borrowed” bookstore books.

I knew I spent my spare time in some pretty weird ways. But I also knew I had to. I could never put it into words then, but what I was doing was trusting my cavernous need to create. Being the unqualified misfit in a calligraphy class was uncomfortable, but not following the mysterious path of my own curiosity was unbearable.

Now, I am at peace with my weirdness. I look back and understand that everything I do in life doesn’t need a goal attached to it. While I didn’t know it at the time, carving out my own strange creative path cultivated a relationship with my creativity that was both respectful and playful. I never took it too seriously, but I always made time for it. I honored it with sacrifice and a willingness to feel weird.
But, don’t get me wrong: I fumbled through my creativity journey more like the unsure college girl surprised by her Doc Martens than a fearless risk-taking artist.

And it still worked.

Because it led me to where I am today: a writer who doesn’t feel weird.

So, if you’re feeling just a bit weird about the ways you spend your time or the things you just know you have to do but can’t explain exactly why, take it from me: trust your precious curiosity. Let it lead you. Chase it all the way to freedom. Because in it lies your creativity, waiting for you to name it, own it and wholly embrace it, even the weirdness.


Holly Pennington - Copy

Holly Pennington writes about vulnerability, faith and freedom at

She lives near Seattle, and wonders where her Doc Martens ended up. She would love to connect with you on Instagram & Facebook, and on Twitter at @dreadsandgoldi



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  1. Bob Nailor on February 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Always intriguing how something can lead one down the road of life to the place you want to be. Nice article.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Thank you. It’s nice to be 40 and be able to look back and see that it all had a purpose.

  2. Charles Dougherty on February 1, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Broad experience is one of the foundations of creativity; an open mind is another.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Totally agree. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. Rhiannon Hall on February 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Great post. Best advice I was recently given, “We need to embrace our weird.” And the giver was prompted to advise it because we were talking about weird shoes and not caring that other people thought they were weird. That’s always something I’ve strived to do, to embrace my weird, whatever it entailed. But to hear it from someone who is so cool and I was somewhat afraid I was too weird to be accepted by? That’s pretty freeing.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 2:01 am

      Totally! And I am loving “embrace our weird”… Kind of like those city bumper stickers that say, “keep Boulder weird.” We should make some that say, “Embrace your weird.” 🙂

  4. Diane Rapp on February 1, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Holly, I too was an art major in college. I soon realized I didn’t have the talent to make my ideas come to life. Later when I got hooked on writing, I realized that I could “paint with words” and make people see what I imagined. You were never weird, just a visionary waiting to emerge.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 1:58 am

      I love that, thank you so much for sharing. “Visionary waiting to emerge,” I will remember that!

  5. James Prescott on February 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    This is a wonderful post Holly, with such wisdom and honesty. So grateful to have you guesting on my blog, thank you so much for such a great post.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 2:00 am

      Thank you, James. It was so much fun to write and revisit all of those interests. It is truly an honor to write for you.

  6. Scott Bury on February 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I can relate. I never thought I was weird, but it turned out a lot of other people did. I just thought I was being sensible, or following my own interests.

    • Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 1:59 am

      Awesome! I wish I would have had that kind of confidence earlier on!

  7. Onisha Ellis on February 1, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Having multiple interests doesn’t make one weird, it makes them interesting

  8. Holly Brooks Pennington on February 2, 2016 at 1:57 am

    I love that, thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Steve Austin on February 21, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Such a fun and encouraging post, Holly! I’m a professional sign language interpreter, a professional photographer, a blogger, a former radio show host, a former pastor and worship leader, trombonist, piano player, collector of Converse sneakers and antique books, a fan of Garth Brooks and Michael Jackson, and we won’t even discuss my complete obsession with romantic comedies. So, my weird friend, you’re in good company! You can sit next to me.

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