Essay: I Don’t Fit In…And That’s Okay. In Fact, It’s Better Than Okay
I don’t think there’s ever been a teenager more consumed by the notion of popularity.
Yes, I know all teens (or—let’s be clear—certain kinds of teens) are consumed by popularity.
But I had it bad.
I Was So Desperate to Belong
Ironically, perhaps, I was in the so-called right group.
But the right group was terrible to me. Maybe we were terrible to each other. I still haven’t figured out if I was the one who was treated the worst or if we all took turns treating each other terrible.
It probably doesn’t matter.
But high school was a succession of events where I was consumed by being friends with the right people, dating the right boys, and being included in the right events. Oftentimes, it seemed, I wasn’t included. That was the horror of my group—that you were in it and then suddenly one day left out.
I wanted so badly to fit in. I bought the right white Reeboks that I wore with white, bunched-up socks (it was the 80s, people), I dated the right boys, even if I thought they were dumb, I smoked the right cigarettes, I talked to (and didn’t talk to) the right people.
If we’re to judge by how I felt (and what other way is there to judge anything, really?) my efforts didn’t work.
Because even though I was in the “right” group, I felt terrible.
How I Looked and Felt Were Completely Different
On the outside, all looked good. But I was so consumed by my obsession with belonging that I couldn’t focus on anything else…not preparing for college, not the fact that my dad was busted for embezzlement and on the front page of the paper, not anything but my so-called friends.
And getting out of that high school didn’t solve the problem. I continued to dream about these girls decades after high school.
They couldn’t even leave me alone 20 years later—in my subconscious mind—long after I’d noticed that all of them seemed to stay in our hometown and in short not lead lives I’d be remotely interested in leading!
Still, I knew that it wasn’t about them. It was about me.
I Still Don’t Fit In
Cut to today. Or, more specifically, last Thanksgiving.
I was with my boyfriend at a dinner being thrown by a couple he’s friends with.
They were very East side, which, if you don’t live in LA, means that they were terribly hip. Artists. They were, essentially, the exact opposite of everyone from my high school. They created and were in plays, they deejayed, they made films and wrote books and TV shows that were widely revered. One told me about a pod she had in her backyard where she threw events.
A pod! One big enough to fit people inside for events!
I’m still not sure what that was or meant but I knew it sounded cool.
At dinner, talk turned to an artist’s commune in San Francisco that had burned. Everyone at the table, save my boyfriend and I, knew about this event. This had been a Thing. They all knew people who had lived there or were involved in it. And while I’m not sure why this hit me at this moment, I looked around the table and thought, “These people all fit together. And I don’t.”
Do I Fit in with Anybody?
I certainly didn’t fit with my so-called friends from high school.
And so, at that table, I started wondering who I did fit with. Writers? Sober people? Entrepreneurs? Meditators? There wasn’t—there isn’t—an easy answer.
I realized that I’ve never really have fit into a certain segment or group.
There was a time in my life where I was tortured by this. And a time years later when I couldn’t have admitted it.
But, looking around that table, I thought about how much I loved the fact that I didn’t fit in.
There, or anywhere.
The Liberation of Not Caring
When something has shackled you for so long and you suddenly realize the shackles are off, it should be shocking.
But it wasn’t. It just felt right. Still, the relief was as sweet as the chocolate pie I was about to consume.
I smiled at my boyfriend as talk of the loft fire continued.
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