When I was a pre-teen, I really struggled with a sense of not belonging. We’d just moved cross-country to South Texas where, culturally, I should’ve fit in like a hand in a glove.
It didn’t quite happen that way.
Once again, I wasn’t in the majority. Even though I looked like everyone else, I stuck out, but in a different way than I’d stuck out in Indiana. I couldn’t be called out anymore for having “hair that didn’t match any of [my] clothes” or “being left in the oven for too long.” In Texas, I wasn’t “Hispanic enough” for the locals.
Back in the Midwest, I was usually the 2nd or 3rd Hispanic kid in the entire school. Add to that being a pastor’s kid and you really got looked at like you had three heads. In Texas, people’s eyes got big when they thought my dad was a priest.
I’ve spent a lot of my life being different, and by now, I’m more used to that than I am fitting right in with crowds or conforming to norms.
Somehow, by the grace of God, when I was about 12 or 13, I felt a sudden awareness that there was really not that much to worry about, at least when it came to feeling like I looked funny, dressed funny, or that others were always talking about me behind my back.
Sidenote: There’s this very sad paranoia that goes with that difficult age that just haunts most of us, and I can’t even imagine the pressures on today’s young people. My heart aches for them. Add social media, of course – it all blows up.
Anyway, suddenly I knew I didn’t need to worry about that anymore. Other people were just as busy spending time worrying about their well being, reputation or sense of belonging as I was.
If I was too busy navel-gazing to worry about them, the same had to be true of them with regard to me.
And that was that.
From that day on, I kind lost my interest in giving in to the fabricated peer pressure that had held me hostage. Now, I’m not in any way saying I’ve never suffered from that since. There are, after all, relapses in adulthood, you know.
I’m just saying that, when we consider we are all human, we share much more in common than we have differences.
- We all want to be loved and to belong – which means we probably all get lonely and feel rejected at times.
- We all want the world to be a nicer, more caring place – which means we probably share a dislike of the mean-spiritedness that seems to be on the rise.
- We all want the best for our families, for the next generation – which means we probably share a sense of having failed them from time to time.
And you know what – it’s all right. We are normal. We are human. And that, to me, is beautiful common ground.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. You’re not alone.