Fitting In

Life is funny. It seems like we struggle from the time we’re born to fit in with the world around us. By the time we’re toddlers, we want to fit in with the cooler older crowd (the ones who are 4 and 5). We want to be like our bigger, older sibling. We look up to them. When we get into grade school, we struggle to find the friends that are like us. The ones that we can identify with. The ones who love us for who we are, not what designer jeans we’re wearing.

And then puberty hits. And everything we learned back then is tossed out the window. Some of us become Mean Girls, some Nerdy Girls. Some the girls no one wants to talk to. Or the one that everyone ignores. The one that’s floating around just on the cusp of being either Cool or Nerd. We struggle to figure out who we are and what we believe in. We try things the other kids are doing because we think they might like us better if we smoke pot or cigarettes or drink a beer.

By the time high school comes around, our social group is pretty much set. Oh, sure there are other kids we meet. Some we form permanent friendships with. Others come and go through our lives, giving us a lesson we needed to learn. We grow up, mature, get smarter. Marry. Have children. A career.

Of course, I use “we” collectively. (I love writing in the collective… Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated…)

Sorry I couldn’t resist the Star Trek reference there.

Anyway. When I was in 5th grade, my teacher was older than dirt. Seriously. She was the teacher no one wanted to get. The one everyone cringed when you said you were in her class. She had my older sister (who is 13 years my senior) in her class and remembered her. Somehow I got lumped into the group of girls that were “bad girls”. I don’t remember exactly what we did to deserve staying in from recess and being lectured. Or having to write the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence thirty times (and really, what sort of punishment is that? All I remember is “We the people…”). I guess I was guilty by association because my teacher remembered my sister and she seemed to think she was some sort of troublemaker.

I didn’t really fit in with those girls, either. By the time high school rolled around, I was one of those kids everyone ignored. Maybe that was a good thing. I was neither popular nor picked on. Just one of those who was overlooked. I can’t really speak to a college experience since I’d had enough of school by the time I graduated.

I grew up. Had a few friends here and there. Pissed off some. Made a life-long connection with a couple others. I joined writing groups, trying to be better, get published, eager to learn and grow. You know what the funny thing is? These writing groups aren’t much different than high school. They have their own cliques who look at you, the outsider, as though you’re not good enough or smart enough to be part of their world. Sometimes navigating through that world has been treacherous. And sometimes it’s been rewarding. I’ve met some awesome people. I’ve met some bitchy people. I’ve met some people I would give the shirt off my back to and some I wouldn’t give a passing glance to. I’ve met some who have a negative outlook and some who can spin a positive outlook out of the worst situation.

Some have made it clear there’s a Keep Out sign with No Admittance. Even though they crack the door a little to give you a peek inside of what you’re missing. Others are happy to say Open, Please Come In. I guess I’m still trying to figure out exactly where I fit in. Maybe I don’t fit in at all. And that’s okay, too.

By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.