Confession time: I’ve never been a girly girl. I don’t belong to a big tribe of women, I don’t go away on girly weekends, and I don’t spend hours talking to my girlfriends on the phone. I didn’t have a massive social circle growing up, wasn’t into drinking or partying, and didn’t date. I grew up with an ever-present sinking feeling that perhaps I was, in fact, the weirdo I was sometimes labeled as; that one in a million unfortunate soul who missed out on a very vital and important part of the female genetic makeup.
The struggle to live up to one of my genders stereotypes wasn’t my only problem. Outside of my family I didn’t really feel I fitted in with anyone and labeled not my peers. I was always drawn to people much older than myself, people who were interested in having into conversations, people who I considered wise. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people my own age, it was more I just simply couldn’t relate to them. I grew up with a sister who had Cystic Fibrosis and so from a young age I was immersed in a world of complex issues and , in fact, themes, a world that few young people inhabit.
I’ve often felt a lot like that little black sheep in the photo, a sort of ‘special’ breed that all the other normal sheep aren’t quite sure what to make of. I have literally spent my entire life with the unshakeable gnawing feeling that I just don’t quite belong; like I’m an alien on my own planet. It is the strangest and loneliest of feelings some days and yet on others I feel a deep sense of gratitude and a ever-present that perhaps I wasn’t born to fit in, to get lost in a crowd like I so try to do, perhaps I was in fact born to stand out, to lead from the front instead of trying to blend in at the back.
That growing realisation will one day soon be the liberation of me. See here’s the thing, when you feel like you’re supposed to fit in you are constantly filled with the feeling that you are failing because you never do quite fit in with other people no matter how hard you try. If, on the other hand, you awaken to the knowledge that fitting in was not what you were put here to do then slowly the world becomes full of possibilities. Finally you can begin to set yourself free.
I Walk A Lonely Road
If you’re familiar with that opening line from the Green Day song ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ then you know ‘the only one that I have ever known, don’t know where it goes but it’s only me and I walk alone’ is what comes next. I have some truly special and amazing people in my life who I know will always do their utmost to be there for me when I need them and yet still my path often feels so distinct to that of other people’s that I can’t help but feel alone as it winds along towards a destination that is still so unclear.
Yet perhaps my feeling of being a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit, a square peg in a round hole, is more pervasive than I imagine. Maybe many of us feel constrained by the box that society tries to get us to squeeze in to. Maybe to a lesser or greater extent, we all feel on the periphery, marginalized, not quite belonging for one reason or another but we keep quiet purely because we believe that everyone else knows what to do with the map the world handed them on the day they were born.
The Map We’re Given
Society sets out very clearly what’s normal and what’s not, done via so many channels that it’s impossible to not get the message about what’s expected of you. It’s almost like we’re born with a map imprinted on our minds of the different stages we need to move through, and by when. As an absolutely abysmal map reader I figure this must have at least something to do with me drifting so far off my set course right?
If I were to use society’s measuring stick as to what makes a successful person I fear I have failed dismally. Aside from the aforementioned deviations above, I am thirty-five, unmarried, childless, still renting, and currently trying to reinvent myself as a writer. Forgive me if I’m mistaken but I’m yet to see a biscuit tin that lists those things as the hallmark of a human being who’s got it all. Yet there should be such a biscuit tin, one that recognizes and affirms that there is more than one way to do life, that those of us who stand out from the pack are not weird but rather we have simply been sent here on a different mission.
Wired to Belong
It’s part of our DNA to want to belong, to always be searching for our tribe-mates, the one’s whose puzzle pieces fit with our own. We don’t want to be alone and we’re not meant to be, we’re wired for love, connection, and belonging. We go in search of that sense of belonging hoping to find it in other people without realizing one very important thing:
It turns out that we must belong to ourselves first. That we must be brave enough to stand alone in the vast wilderness no matter what other people think of us, that we must hold fast to the voice inside of us that whispers that no matter how much we want to belong to others, to gain their approval, to be liked, we must honor the knowing in our hearts and souls that we were put here to fulfill a mission that only we can fulfill, that we are on the right path, no matter how lonely it can be, no matter how misunderstood we may feel sometimes.
The Right People Will Love Us
While there have been times when feeling different and alien has been hard, it has taught me one very important thing: the right people will love me for who I am. Not only will they love me but they’ll be curious enough to come closer, to want to get to know me, to want to try to understand me.
I may not have a lot of people around me but I have the right people. They are my heroes, my cheerleaders, my team-mates, my light when things get dark. They are the ones who, even though they may not always understand where I’m coming from or why I feel the way I do, will encourage me and fill me with their belief in me when I have lost my own. They don’t mind that I look a little different to all the other sheep, in fact, I think in many ways that’s exactly why they love me.
So if you feel like an alien on your own planet know that you are not alone. We may be rare but then again, the best things in life usually are.