Georgia Keighery Aged 8

I remember my uncle Fabian taking this photo and telling me as he took it, “Look thoughtful Georgie – like you’re thinking deeply about the concerns of 8-year-olds everywhere”.

As a kid, I had coke-bottle-thick, horn-rimmed glasses. I was beyond the realm of politely plump and my long, oily hair hung limply from my scalp to my over-sized bum. I wore badges that said things like, “I am a woman for peace” and I was convinced that I would one day be an Oscar-winning actress.

I hung out mostly at the parties of my parents’ artist friends on the weekends, and they assured me I was brilliant. I was, obviously, entirely shunned by kids my own age. To be honest with you, I don’t blame them, and I don’t think I blamed them even then – the gracious attention of my elders had me convinced that I was a taste acquired with maturity. It would be another 10 years before I realised that I was actually a taste acquired with drunkenness and drug consumption.

Nevertheless, it was clear to me from a very early age that stunning beauty and smooth socialization were not going to be mine. I was weird, I was awkward, I was precocious, I was … different.

Michael & Victoria Keighery 1970's

My Father and Mother, Michael and Victoria Keighery, in the 1970s. My mother was once a smoker, and used to puff on menthol cigarettes because she said “when I was a girl it meant you were a virgin … Of course” she added, “the fact that I have children might be a bit of a giveaway”.

My father, an artist, and my mother, an arts manager, both struggled to understand what I was talking about when I would return home from school bemoaning my difference. “They HATE me” I’d say, “because I’m just not like them.” My father would look puzzled and say “Of course you’re not darling, you’re like you!” and he’d smile genuinely at me. His simplicity confounded me. My mother would sit with me in the afternoons after school and take great pains to explain that “the things that make you different are things you should be proud of – they’re the things that make you you, darling!”. Her biased view of my value also confounded me. She would continue, “And remember, if other kids laugh or tease you it’s just because difference can be scary and confronting. But when you’re proud of your differences, you show other kids that it’s alright to be different, and they might just find a little bit of courage to be proud of their own individuality.”

Michael & Georgia Keighery Circa 1989

My father, visual artist, Michael Keighery and I circa 1989. He helped build the Great Wall of China … I tied pipe-cleaners on my glasses.

So, at the tender age of 7, I decided that if I was going to be different, then I was going to be proud of it. I began tying coloured pipe-cleaners around the corners of my glasses to accentuate their presence, and to match my outfits and mood. I began taking my lunch box to the middle of the playground instead of hiding away. Because I wanted everyone to know that I was eating alone and that that was okay with me. On days when I was feeling a little down I’d twist those pipe-cleaners on my glasses so that they spelled out “GO ME” above my forehead. I could see that I was different and I was determined to have a sense of humor about it. I was a freak and proud to exercise my freakishness to its full capacity.

As I grew up I became more self-conscious, especially as a teen. However, as an adult, I’ve come full circle. I’ve rediscovered some of the joy of my weirdness as I’ve traveled and lived overseas and been reminded of what it’s like to stand out. I’ve rekindled by respect for the empowering nature of a well-placed pipe-cleaner.

Georgia Keighery (sans pipe-cleaners) aged 9

Once I left school, training as an actor, I began to write plays (mainly because I knew what I wanted to perform on stage). Slowly my Oscar-hopeful actor self realised that my affair with playwriting had become my truer love. Then, out of my total, drama-nerd passion for writing plays, the general writing-nerd in me sprung out like a pocket-protector-glad Marcus Attilius.

My fascination with finding the commonalities in the individuality of being human grows daily. It’s my eternal hope that someone might someday read my writing and mumble, “I thought it was just me” or “Same!” Especially the weird kids.

I’m still a playwright but I’m also now a feature journalist specialising in arts, culture, travel, lifestyle and profile writing. I’m also a secret interpretive dancer, but don’t tell anyone that.