My friend Amy shared a video with me this morning about a boy named Josh who was previously bullied after losing his dad, but one day decided to open doors for people, and it changed his life. It was the typical tearjerker, emotional piano music in the background, only watch this shit on your period type of video. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful and totally affirming (you can watch it here), but I’m not really a touchy-feely kind of girl. I usually just smile, watch a few seconds and then click out before the waterworks start.
But, about a minute into the video I was half-assedly listening to, Josh said something that stuck.
“I didn’t feel this was my place to be.”
At the time, he was sitting alone in a lunch room, completely shunned and mocked by his peers. But, there is also no better descriptor for parts of my life than that exact phrase. First, chill. You aren’t my therapist Tom, and I’m not going to lay on your couch and talk about my all feelings in high school. But, there is just so much power in hearing someone else say it.
The majority of my Junior High and High School experience was feeling like it wasn’t “my place to be.” I tried to mesh into many different groups, and the majority of my relationships were short-lived and a struggle. I was overly accommodating and pleasing and inauthentic because I thought it would make people like me, even though I didn’t really fit into what I was trying to be a part of. It ended up feeling forced and unnatural as I desperately tried create just enough of something to get through it.
College was the same way. I didn’t join any clubs or sororities. It always felt like I had some sort of secret I was hiding, even though I had absolutely no idea what it was at the time. Maybe it was my weight, or that I was broke or that I wasn’t even a good friend.
Not fitting in or having “a place to be” doesn’t end with your teen years. As an adult I’d watch as so many other adults around me began to once again fall into their “place.” Work friends who go out for happy hour once a week. Adult softball leagues. Church organizations. There is a group of girls from high school who have remained very close after graduation; getting together for vacations and holidays and their children’s birthday parties. They share photos online, tagging each other and looking so happy and full, and it would make me incredibly sad and jealous. They clearly had something real between each other, and I didn’t. No actual sustainable connection.
Once I had kids, it was easier to be without a “place” because I was so preoccupied with keeping babies alive. I threw all my free time into them not only because I loved them, but because I really didn’t have anyone else. I literally had to make my own friends, like, with my body. Eventually I got online, creating this space where you are today, learning and growing and changing the environment around me. Once again, making something where before there was nothing. Finally finding “my place to be.”
I will never be someone who lucks into “my place,” and there are tons of people like me out there. Grown ass adults with no clue where they fit in this world. You can tell it’s us by the way our face lights up like a dog going for a car ride when you invite us to lunch or the excessive laughter we produce in response to your marginally funny joke. It sometimes reads as desperate or annoying, but that’s not our intent. We’re just looking for our “place.”
If I could build a time machine, I’d go back in time to do two things. 1. Tell teenage Brittany it’s okay that she feels like a phony outcast. Not fitting in isn’t a personal failure on her part. School just isn’t her place, it won’t come for a few more decades, so in the mean time she needs to sit back, be herself and consider writing a book about boy wizards. 2. Put into motion a series of events that would prevent Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson from divorcing.
Personally, having a heads up that in order to feel accepted I’d have to make my “place” myself would have been helpful and saved me loads of time. But, that’s neither here nor there at this point. Bottom line, relying on yourself and building your own community doesn’t make it any less real or authentic. Throwing in my face that the majority of my friends are online isn’t an insult, it’s a fact. My place is here. Sometimes it has a dot com, sometimes it’s a stage. Soon it will be a book shelf, and twice a year it’s in the middle of the woods. Vastly different surroundings for one common reality, I am in “my place to be.”