Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Feel Like You Belong?

I was at a meeting tonight where a topic is picked from a basket and everyone comments on it. The topic picked was “Feel Like You Belong?” At first, I thought it was asking if I felt like I belonged at that particular meeting, which I was already questioning. But soon I realized this was a more general question: Do I feel like I belong? Do I fit in? And the question was far more complex for me than I would have ever imagined.

My first thought is that I never feel like I belong; I always feel like a misfit, like I’m just a bit different from all the other people around me, that I’m never comfortable in any situation. But that’s not exactly the truth, and true growth is only going to come from rigorous honesty.

The truth is that I desperately want to fit in, and as time goes on I fit in more and more. However, when it appears I’m starting to fit in I sabotage my efforts and fitting in, and separate myself. Now that I look at it, I could fit in if I wanted to, and consciously I think that I want to. But part of me won’t let myself fit in, won’t let myself be comfortable.

Probably my earliest memories are of kindergarten. During recess, the boys and the girls would go out to the yard, and the boys would chase the girls around. I determined that the boys were wrong for doing this, so I started to defend the girls, separating myself from the group.

I had no idea at that time, but I was a natural leader. Soon, two of the boys started helping me, protecting the girls. Then there were five boys, and then ten. Pretty soon there were twenty-five boys protecting the girls and ten chasing them, and I was clearly leading the protectors. That was the cue for me to leave the game and start playing a new game by myself. The kids followed me to that game, and again I moved on. And so on.

Another great example was my move to Israel. For those of you who don’t know, there are some native English speakers in Israel, but not a ton. You can find pockets of them at the various colleges, but most of the rest are spread out, to some extent. Since us “Americaitz” maintain a serious stigma in Israel, I was destined to be an outcast.

That wasn’t how it worked out, however. Again, people gravitated towards me. Soon, American Jews from all around the country were coming to Tel Aviv to have Shabbat dinner at my apartment, and we would all cook together, and handle the pressures that Israel holds for foreigners. People from outer countries than the States started coming to these dinners, and the New Olim Society was founded.

The only real purpose for the New Olim Society was a bit of fellowship between people in similar situations. We would have dinners, go to the movies, have parties, whatever, just as long as we didn’t have to be alone in the country. More and more of these people were moving to Tel Aviv, and again I belonged, and was even at the center of the group. Of course, that made it the perfect time to move to Jerusalem.

I’ve lived in twenty-six cities over the past fifteen years, most of them pretty dissimilar from my native Philadelphia. In just about all of them I haven’t fit in when I got there, and in each city I’ve become more accepted as time went on, until I did really belong. But once that time arrived, I always felt like, for some reason, it was time for me to move on.

Why do I feel this way? Someone at the meeting suggested that, for him, he resisted fitting in because of low self esteem. It just seemed more natural to him to be an outcast, not worthy of other people’s positive attention. I suppose that is the reason I have resisted belonging as well. For me, being the outcast is comfortable, and being unworthy of acceptance fit in pretty well with my own self-image.

Today, I’ve been living in Rochester, NY for two years, the longest time I’ve spent in one city since college. The city, ironically enough, is beginning to feel like home for me, and I’ve been searching for a home for years. And I do feel like I belong in the recovery community here, which is large, diverse, and I believe filled with amazing and very special people.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, or if I truly have become comfortable enough with myself to feel like I belong anywhere. But without question, tonight was a night of revelations about myself, and a time where I identified a major defect of character that I need to work on. That in and of itself is a huge step forward, and I hope it’s a step I can build upon in the future.

Posted by Scottage at 2:14 AM / | |