Meeting Me Where I Live

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an oddball. An outsider. A square peg in a round hole.

Perhaps that’s because I was uprooted from New England at age 10, and plopped smack dab in the middle of the rural south. In a tent. Or maybe it was because I was liberal in a red state for 40 years. I was also a girl who never wore make up, and preferred tonka trucks to dolls. Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I just didn’t fit in.

Because of this, on the rare occasion when I encounter someone who gets me, I’m so relieved that I feel like weeping. It is only in moments like those that I realize what a heavy burden it is to be different. It’s exhausting, always having to explain oneself or justify one’s actions. And then there’s the constant second guessing. “Nobody else has this opinion. Does that mean I’m wrong?”

When someone meets me where I live, deep in the heart of me, I know I’m home. And it’s so nice to have someone right there, in my home. It makes me realize how lonely I am the rest of the time.

If you find someone who truly understands you, dear reader, cherish that person. It’s a miraculous thing when two unicorns meet. Rainbows have been known to happen.


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Finding My Tribe

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of feeling as if we do not fit in. That’s actually pretty much my status quo. But every once in a while, I’ll go somewhere or meet someone that makes me feel completely comfortable and at home inside my own skin. When that happens, it’s such a relief. It feels as though I’m removing shoes that are two sizes too small. I feel understood. I can be myself.

We humans are so nomadic and so culturally, emotionally and politically diverse that it’s a rare and precious moment when you find a member of your “tribe.” It’s also a gift to feel at home. These people may not look anything like you, they may be a different age or gender identity or nationality or religion, but you can tell that they get where you’re coming from. And these home places may be far flung and entirely unexpected, but you know that a piece of your very soul resides there.

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling. Hold onto it if you can, if only in your memories. These feelings will remind you of who you are at your very core. And whoever you are, it’s nice to be reminded, sometimes, that you’re exactly who you are supposed to be.

finding my tribe

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One of the Guys

Most of my life, I’ve toiled in male-dominated fields. More than once I’ve been told that a woman should not be (fill in the blank). I know what it’s like to be looked at with suspicion and not taken seriously. I know what it’s like to want to be one of the guys.

I recently witnessed a woman in the earliest stages of trying to fit in under these circumstances. She’s taking the, “I’m every bit as manly as you are,” route. She’s tough. She’s aggressive. She’s territorial. She’s cold as ice. She’s a show off. She’s even condescending to her fellow female coworkers. If this were her natural state, I’d say, “Fine. Go for it. Be your insufferable self.” But it’s so clearly a show that it’s annoying the guys she works with. They find her to be pushy and rude. It’s making her become even more of an outsider.

Don’t get me wrong. I think women have as much right to be pushy and rude as men do. But I think that behaving that way simply because you think it will make you be accepted is the wrong way to go. Nobody likes an obnoxious person, regardless of gender.

Yes, I do things to adapt to my environment. Everyone does. I’m not going to carry a purse up to my bridge, or wear high heels. This is partly because I’d be laughed at, but mostly because these things would be safety issues. I expect to get greasy, and so I dress the part.

I also tend to be a straight shooter. I tell it like it is. But that’s in my nature. I think guys appreciate it, though. They don’t want to waste time having to read between the lines.

I knew I had made it as far in to the inner circle as I ever would when the guys started joking around with me like they do with each other. That is an achievement. I’ll take it.

I never wanted to get so far in there that I had to listen to locker room talk or discuss sports that don’t interest me. They can have that. I don’t want it.

But I think that I crossed my highest hurdle when I came to realize and accept the fact that no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to fit in completely. And that’s okay. Now, instead of feeling like a turd in that punch bowl, I look at myself as an exotic piece of fruit: Never quite blending in, and perhaps unexpected, but adding to the overall flavor in a significant way.

No matter how you look at it, I’m still here. And somewhere along the line, I stopped caring. For the most part, so have they.

Female mechanic

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Even Weeds Belong Somewhere

My whole life, I’ve felt as though I didn’t quite fit in. So much so, that at some point I gave up trying. In fact, these days I seem to have gone to the other end of the bell curve entirely. I kind of delight in being out in left field most of the time.

Except when I’m feeling vulnerable. When I’m tired, I feel much more insecure. When I’m improperly dressed at a party, and have no idea which fork to use, I’m not going to lie–that kind of sucks.

But it isn’t anyone else telling me that I don’t fit in. It’s entirely me. And it’s based on some pretty arbitrary social rules. It always makes me think of weeds. I’m a weed.

During my young adult life, I lived in a town called Apopka, which called itself the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.” (I wonder if they still do? It’s been many decades since I’ve been back.) Back then, you couldn’t throw a rock in that town without shattering a greenhouse window. It made me look at plants in an entirely new way.

It amazed me how much people were willing to pay for stuff that you can find growing entirely wild somewhere or other. People do love the exotic, but even exotic things have to be commonplace in some location, or they wouldn’t exist.

So, a weed is simply something that doesn’t fit in. It’s not where it’s supposed to be. Worse case scenario, it’s invasive. But that’s not the weed’s fault. It never asked to be uprooted. There it was, minding its own business in its natural habitat, when some fool decided to send it half way across the world without considering the consequences. And then the name calling begins. (Damned weed. Get out of my yard! We don’t want you here!)

So it’s all about perspective and location. We all have our place. It’s just a matter of finding it. So maybe as you walk along the path of your life, try being a little less judge-y of the other living things that you encounter who are feeling out of place. They, too, have their journey. Just sayin’.


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On Being a Fish Out of Water

Not fitting in or being uncomfortable is what the expression “like a fish out of water” means. That’s a pity, because if you think about it, a fish out of water is experiencing the ultimate form of enlightenment. If you’ve been in water your entire life, you don’t really realize you’re in water, do you? I mean, on some level you must, but you don’t know what it’s truly like until you’ve jumped out of it.

I discovered that on a small scale recently when I moved from one rental place to another. I knew I had been unhappy where I was for some time, but I didn’t fully comprehend what a negative effect that place was having on me until I got out of there. It was definitely just what the doctor ordered. I’ve had that feeling when I’ve quit a toxic job or ended a toxic relationship, too.

Now that I no longer have a completely crazy landlady and her ex-convict son living on the other side of my living room wall, I can breathe. Now that I don’t have to step over his cigarette butts and deal with the god-awful stench of their overly hoarded garage, I feel much better. Now that my dogs don’t get fed whatever crap they have as leftovers when I’m not looking, and don’t have to wend their way among the ever-increasing debris in their back yard to do their business, they feel better, too. Now that I’m not being constantly watched to see when I come and go and with whom, and how often I use my air conditioner, I can relax and feel like an adult in my own home again.

By the standard definition, I guess you could say I was a fish out of water at the old place. But if you look at it as a form of enlightenment, then I am a fish out of water now, and it feels really good. I will never take a comfortable living situation for granted again. If that knowledge is what comes from jumping out of my comfort zone and exploring the possibilities that come with change, then this is one fish who hopes to do it on a regular basis.