I’ve wanted more for a long time and I’ve always thought it would come from something outside of me. By associating with the right group, or the right man. By some luck or chance meeting, by some random moment of understanding.
I’ve never felt like I belonged completely in any capacity in life. Not in my family, schools, social circles, workplaces, or romantic relationships.
I’ve always felt a very tangible distance, a disconnect. Unsure in how everyone else seemingly fit in so easily, without worry or care. And some didn’t fit in, but they too seemed to navigate that as though that was precisely how they did in fact fit in – by not fitting in.
I’ve always been curious about what I was missing or lacking. What type of instruction I wasn’t given by my parents, or community, to help me with the key to belonging.
As a child I was extremely sensitive and felt that the adults in my life thought poorly of me. I felt as though I was being judged as mischievous or unlovable. Where this self-judgment was born from – I have no clue. I just know that it’s ALWAYS been there. For as far back as I can remember.
I stuttered as a young child and sometimes adults would laugh (not necessarily in a malicious way, but do children really understand subtleties like that?) My mother sent me to a speech therapist and constantly reminded me to, “Slow down. Speak slower.”
In grade school I was an outsider. In middle school too. I felt that other children saw me as “too smart” in my elementary school days and it didn’t help that I found pleasure in pleasing my teachers.
In third grade my mother skipped me ahead to fourth grade and I was teased relentlessly – partly because of the kids in my class not being well equipped to handle anything different in their sheltered-to-the-extreme existence, and partly, I think, because of my own lack of self-esteem. I was an easy target, a younger, smaller version of them – one that could easily be tricked and made fun of.
At this time in my life I worked hard to be accepted, cried by myself often and accepted emotional abuse at the hands of people who I thought would be my friend if only I could prove to them that their teasing didn’t bother me.
Freshman year of high school was brutal. New people tried to friend me, but the people who knew me from middle school made sure that the new people quickly understood my social ranking. I was embarrassed, self-aware, and easily hurt.
As my body developed my sophomore year in high school (I was a late bloomer of course due to skipping a year ahead in school), boys started to give me attention – regardless of my social stature. At this point, one girl in my class realized that I could be of more value to her as a friend than as someone she teased. If the boys wanted me, well, then she’d become my friend and use that to further her already elevated social position.
I actually moved into a state of being popular by my junior year in high school, but not before I earned a reputation for liking to hook up and have fun. I realized almost immediately that it was not only fun to makeout with cute boys, but that it seemed to keep their attention.
But when my senior year came around, I was not entranced with popularity anymore. I was feeling again as I always had – physically present but emotionally removed. Far away from everyone and everything around me.
I wanted more.
I went to college and drank and partied and tried to make friends and felt very much like an outsider. The kids around me had parents who went to college and came by on weekends for a beer or to hangout. They knew about rushing and the Greek system. They had friends to meet up with at the tailgate parties before football games. They knew what they wanted to study and their parents paid for them to go to school and have fun.
I felt left out and didn’t quite know how to join in their groups. I had a few friends, mostly by random chance, and I tried to figure out what everyone else seemed to instinctively know how to do. I was lucky to meet three older girls during my first semester away at college and they took me on as their fourth roommate. They accepted me for who I was and supported me in dark times.
As much as I loved them, I still always felt like the outsider – the last friend brought into the group, the younger one. They seemed to know so much about friendships and life, so much that I for some reason, just didn’t know.
I met a boy, dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles. It felt right at first. Perfect even. But after a year or so I started to wonder if our connection was what it should be? I was starting to feel repulsed by sex and everything about him drove me crazy. His habits wore on my patience and his smells were overwhelming to me. We broke up and I felt free.
I started college in a new city and started working as a resident advisor in one of the freshman dorms. All of the resident advisors went through a few weeks of training. We did team-building exercises to bond as a group, but I never felt like the techniques worked on me. Like always, I felt as though I was the odd man out. I saw groups of people laughing and existing as cohesive units, but I didn’t get it. What was wrong with me?
I met a best friend in one of my marketing classes and she seemed to understand me and I’ve felt a true connection with her, however it’s still been marred by a sense of the weird shame-guilt feeling that I nearly always experience in moments of extreme openness and vulnerability with other people.
During this time, I met another man and I loved him with my whole heart, intensely. But again, there was the distance. I could not relate to him with my mind and knew instinctively that his mind and connection to life was more simple than mine. I tried to change him because I loved the way he made me feel. But ultimately, my behavior pushed him away and our relationship ended. I was devastated – for years. I beat myself up for a long time, wondering if I’d ruined the best relationship I’d ever experienced.
I moved back to my hometown and partied and floated around different social groups and tried to fit in. I never felt a “click” – ever. I would look around and wonder, “What do they know that I don’t know?”
I wondered how girls got boys to propose to them. I attributed my lack of connection with a good man to my not being of a good enough breed. Maybe I wasn’t rich enough, or didn’t come from a good enough family. Maybe they knew something about how to date that I didn’t know. Maybe they had a social grace or three that I never even knew existed.
Everywhere I looked, the girls I knew seemed to know how to dress better, brush their hair better and wear makeup after a long hot day better than me. They flirted better and had more lady-like apartments. They just seemed to know things that I didn’t know.
Boys used me. I broke a few hearts when I couldn’t return a feeling. I decided to move.
I dated and continued on the same kind of hamster wheel loop of confusion, only as time progressed did I get better at the game. From years of observing I knew how to dress and style my hair. I mimicked social cues. I made friends. I got jobs.
I still felt lonely. I still felt alone. And I still wondered all the time, “What the fuck am I missing?”
After 6 years of being single and still never feeling like I fit in, I met my partner and things started to click. Finally.
And I started to feel like maybe, just maybe, I was going to get more.