I’ve never felt like I belonged. I’ve written songs about it, filled many journals with it and known this for what seems like an eternity. But I’ve never said it out loud. It’s a “Truth” I carry around or rather drag around like a child’s tattered and worn favorite blanket. This desire for belonging is always with me even if I’ve forgotten it’s there.
When I saw these women on the streets of Venice, I started taking their picture. I think my “Truth” about not belonging told me to. I loved the way one of them had her arm hooked through the arm of another woman — a woman with a cane that needed a little extra steadiness as she walked. I loved how they were all in dresses. I loved their “threeness” and their spacing.
I had no idea where they were going, but my camera did. My camera focused on the woman in the distance. See the beautiful smiling soul on the far left side? The one rocking the sunglasses and a beautiful print dress? Her. She and her companion were the destination.
I first realized that I didn’t feel like I belonged in 3rd grade. We moved from California to Arkansas. My new teacher didn’t want me in her class. She didn’t think the California education system had prepared me to be in her advanced Arkansas class. (Yes, I know. We are talking about 8 year olds here. Kinda silly. But yet, true it is.) My mother thought differently. My mother won. But my teacher won too. She and my classmates didn’t think I belonged. So of course, I didn’t either.
But it was Junior High when my “Truth” became solidified. Sitting in the front of my Biology class — I loved school and learning. The front of the class was the best place to hear, see and participate. Take pity on 7th grade me please. — I was passed a note from my friend group. My friend group consisted of about 5-7 seventh grade girls. Everyone of them had signed it. Every single one. The note was an homage to all of my faults, behaviors and general uniqueness that they could no longer put up with. I was out. I no longer belonged. I wasn’t sure I would ever recover. And of course, I never told anyone. Ever.
Imagine my surprise when I attended a women’s retreat and part of the events one night included a skit where a bunch of junior high girls (all played by adult women that had volunteered to take to the stage) give a note to one of their unsuspecting group members and tell her she’s no longer included. WHAT?!??! You mean the story that I had nurtured and retold to myself at least a million times didn’t only happen to me? I was over 40 years old when I attended that retreat and learned that I even though “each one of us is special,” I am not always special in how I’ve been hurt and in how my pain has impacted my life.
Nevertheless, I took my childhood stories, added several from high school and college and placed them all in a metaphorical file called Elusive Search for Belonging and placed it in my metaphorical box labeled Shame. And on some unmarked date in my mid 30s, I gave up the search.
When the women came to together, it was non stop talking! I do not understand a single word of Italian but I easily understood the talk of friends. The sound of belonging.
I know that these Italian women may not all feel like they belong. I know their friendship may not be perfect. But what I do know is for a moment in time, they met on the street. They had business together that day. Maybe it was an official group working on an event, maybe they were all part of a club, or maybe they are lifetime friends that grew up together in the historical center of Venice. Or, maybe, the Universe put them together for me to see and for me to believe that belonging is findable for each of us.
I’m 54 as I write this. And I think it’s time. I think it’s time for me to put on a pair of super cool sunglasses, my favorite print dress and go looking for Belonging! I have a feeling She’s been waiting for me for a long, long time.
Interested in more of my stories? Go here to read my most popular blog post. Curious about the post that started it all? You can find it here. Want to read them all? Start at the top right here and work your way down.
Wow. You are probably the coolest person I know. I always figured we were friends because you felt sorry for me. Know you are loved, my friend and the only note you ever get from me will be a positive one!
Haha! I absolutely LOVE YOU Mary Beth! And I’ve never felt sorry for you! Get that thought out of you head. You are beautiful, fun, shiny and lovable. Would love to get a positive note from you!
You were behind me in school.
No one in school was worth anything. I felt it then, and I feel it now.
If it is worth anything, I have always thought highly of you.
Aww Laura, thank you so much! If we only had that magical time machine, I think we would go back and see that everyone was just trying to figure it all out. At least, I know that’s what I’m doing now. Thanks for reading and taking the time to send encouragement to me. It means a lot 🙂
Bren, you never told me that story about the note! You’ve ALWAYS belonged to me! I love you and I can’t wait for you to step in to the belonging where you’ll be most happy!
Haha! Hence the line that says “And of course, I never told anyone. Ever.” Shame is a powerful silencer! Definitely more powerful than me in my younger years. And I know I Belong to you… knew it the day we met as 17 kids embarking on our big life in college! Most happy? Definitely, most happy most days now.
I am loving what you are doing and I vicariously am living your truth through your story’s. I to have felt I didn’t belong. Ive never been secure in who I am. I now however love who I am. My uniqueness, quirkiness and my willingness to learn and grow. You are enspiring me to look through different eyes again!!! Thank you!
Tiffany! What a wonderful comment to encourage me and keep me sharing! I love how a little age teaches us out to love ourselves. And your description of yourself is perfect! Thank you for YOUR inspiration!
Brenda, all I know is… I want to belong to your world! You are fabulous!
Aww Ginger! Glamorous, Larger-than-life, Beautiful Ginger! You are welcome in my world anytime!
Seventh grade can be a real game changer…….it was for me! Those tough, hurtful times sure made us who we are though, didn’t they…..so strong and compassionate and daring!
Love that you are living in your truth!
Totally agree!!! Wouldn’t change a single lesson! Thanks Sharon!