It was a holiday party for my new place of work.
I had only been there a few months.
That's actually not true. I had worked there many years in the past, left for six years and had just recently come back. I wanted to desperately fit in. When I walked in to the party, I recognized very few faces. And the few I knew, I couldn't remember their names. I was super happy to have my husband with me, someone I could talk to, someone to lean on.
As time passed, more people came in. The couple that we knew well finally arrived. I had been waiting for them to get there, so we didn't stick out so much, so we looked like we belonged. And I finally had a person I knew at the gym really well. We actually went out.
Now there was four of us and then another person I knew came in, now that we were five. It was nice. I was having fun. The drinks were good. I met people, chatted and got to know a few new names.
And then my eyes suddenly landed on the other side of the bar.
There, they were hanging out. The lot of them. The "in" crowd.
They were laughing and carrying on, truly connecting. You could tell that they knew each other well, They were a tight knit group, a little family. A community. And I was on the other side. The wrong side. I suddenly felt so alone. Like I didn't belong.
When I was younger, I would work to be the loudest in the room. Dancing and laughing. Performing and getting attention. Always able to figure out how to be part of the group.
Now I feel old. I feel left out and lonely.
But as I'm writing this, I have to be honest with myself. It was never easy. Fitting in.
It felt like work hard work. I've always felt like I am a hard person to like. That I am a person that most people can do without. I can remember as a teenager, wiggling my way in with the popular kids, but never feeling quite a place. Measuring every word, weighing every action.
Would it sound cool.
Would I look good.
It is a funny thing, fitting in. Something that we all want. To belong, to connect, to be part of. And yet when we struggle it is the first thing that we put a "game face" on about. The, "I don't care if people like me" charade and "I don't need to fit in story."
I've been there. I've said those things.
But let's get real and honest. We do care. Human connection, being wanted, being loved, being needed, is the essence of what makes us human. No matter how hard you try to talk yourself out of it, you want to fit in. To fit somewhere, and with someone.
So, yeah, here I am nearly 46 year old, still wanting to be part of the cool kids club. What is different? Now I know that we are all cool kids, that we all fit in somewhere. And it isn't about changing ourself, but it is about finding where you fit just as you are. It's about acceptance. And this starts with you.
From there is it about being with the people who accept you for you. Which newsflash, are many more people than you might think.
Did I ever go over to the other side of the bar that night? No, I didn't. It would have felt forced and uncomfortable. Did we all make our way onto the dance floor together later? Yes. Did I get accepted? Hell yes. I mean, I've got some moves. Genuine, authentic dance, your ass off moves. And I fit in just fine.