A Sense of Belonging

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been on the sideline of events; wallflowers watching life happen around us while we soak in the scenery feeling alone, or lost. I believe the most uncomfortable feeling in the world to be feeling lonely when surrounded by people with whom I’m supposed to be having fun. It hurts. It stings like steel wool on a sunburn. For most of my life, that’s been my reality. Family events, social events at school, concerts with friends, whatever the occasion, I almost always socially awkward; lonely.

I’m slowly learning however that I don’t always have to feel lost, and alone. I’m slowly learning that while I’m an ingredient in the social soup mix, I’m not the entire seasoning packet meaning that I alone am not in charge, or control of how I feel in group settings. It truly depends on the people who share my space and time, and whether or not those people actually CARE about my feelings. Sound simple right? Well, in reality, it isn’t.

I am in general a self-conscious person. Maybe it’s vanity, or maybe it’s general insecurity that leads me to feel like I don’t fit in, or maybe it’s an underlying level of competitiveness that I feel from the people I hang out with: jealousy that boils below the surface in all of our souls yet only presents itself as social awkwardness, or extroverted confidence that shadows the quieter characters in the group.

I’ve recently invested a considerable amount of time with an old friend. On the surface, this person and I have little in common other than an astrological sign, and a few common denominator acquaintances, yet we gel like bricks and mortar holding each other up for success. I’ll admit that in our friendship, I wear the hat of “Student,” leaning about music, culture, and life, while my friend is clearly the strong leader in our pair, but I learn with a smile, and always feel safe expressing my views, or opinions. When my friend steps out of line in judgment, there are sincere apologies, and steps towards learning, and understanding me better. My friend genuinely CARES about ME.

Recently, I was introduced to events, and social situations that would normally have me cowering against a wall seeking camouflage from the crowds. Instead of hiding from the world, I embraced the environment. I danced: publicly! I indulged in a fun drink, or two. I laughed, I smiled. I let go, and had fun. Authentic fun. I released my inhibitions. I threw my insecurities to the distant wind. I embraced everything that came my way. I wanted more.

What made my experience so different than all the others along my path? It was my friend’s attitude, and excitement. Every few minutes, my friend expressed great pleasure in watching me have fun. Every few minutes, my friend shared excitement for my pleasure, my fun, and my new experiences with the people around us. For once, I wasn’t a stain on the carpet, I was an important character in the play. For once, someone actually WANTED me to be a part of what they were involved in because I matter to them. For once, I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect, or even know what I was doing to just let go and have fun.

For once, I truly enjoyed being a part of something wonderful! Having someone truly invested in my experience really opened my eyes to everything that I’ve been missing out on in life.


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