Going into my senior year of high school, I still didn't know where I wanted to go to college let alone what I wanted to major in. What do you do when people are asking you left and right what you want to do when you grow up and you have no answer? Well, if you're like me, you put on a fake smile and come up with something that will satisfy the inquirer. That's what people want, right? To be satisfied and hear what they want to hear? I never wanted to disappoint anyone or show them I didn't know where I fit in. I would grin and bear it. The summer before senior year, I went on four college visits in two days (yes, you heard me right) and was utterly overwhelmed with all the information thrown at me in such a short period of time. I found myself even more lost than I was before.
Though my head told me there were other seniors in high school unsure of what they wanted to do, my heart fed me lies saying I was the only one because I wasn't good enough to fit in. That hurt.
All I knew was I loved to read, write, and play music. But all of those things at the time didn't seem like something I could make a career out of - they were just hobbies to me. What I was good at was speaking in front of people (which makes no sense with me being an introvert, but I swear it's true), so I started looking into the field of Public Relations (PR). I thought I'd found my niche, a place where I could write for other people and speak on behalf of companies, so I chose to go into college as a decided PR major. And in the following years, I changed my major. Two other times. I was having a difficult time figuring out where I was supposed to be. Maybe I was supposed to be in education like my dad's side of the family. Maybe I was supposed to be in higher education like all of the supervisors and professors I loved. All of those were wrong, and I ended up feeling even more out of place than I was before.
I left Illinois State with an English Studies degree and minor in Psychology. Two subjects that have barely any correlation and do not seem to lead to anything specific (which they don't). It's not like I got an Engineering degree and people could assume I'd become an Engineer. People were constantly asking me what I was going to do with this kind of liberal arts degree and where I wanted to be in the future. I again dodged their questions by offering up answers that would leave them satisfied.
The summer after graduation I spent job searching still feeling out of place, that I had nowhere I really belonged. I had plans to go to graduate school but didn't feel like I fit in there, and now I was left floating in the middle of the mess into which my life had turned. If you've ever been in this place, you know how easy it is to feel like a failure and how close you can get to giving it all up and taking some mediocre job just because you want to belong somewhere. After applying to all kinds of jobs I wouldn't be fulfilled in and getting rejected, I was even lower than before if that was a possibility. How could I keep getting denied these jobs I was more than qualified for? I didn't understand.
Finally, I was accepted to a job I didn't expect. It came from a fluke - I wasn't even looking at their job board until my boyfriend sent me a link one day. Though I wanted it, I didn't think I'd get it. Every other job hadn't wanted me, so why would this one? Well, it turns out they did and still do. I'm excelling in this job loving what I do.
Are there times I still feel like I don't belong even though I know I'm where I'm supposed to be? Absolutely. It's difficult to not let these thoughts get you down, but you're so much stronger than the lies telling you you'll never fit in.
Find comfort in the fact that no one ever completely belongs - even though they may seem like they do. They're faking it til they make it. We all are.
Life is a messy journey where we are often very dependent on other people to make us feel like we belong. If I've earned anything from my life so far, it's that we can't always rely on other people to help us fit in. We are the ones in charge of our lives and can't expect anyone to fully help us belong because no person can do that perfectly, no matter how hard they try. We're all humans who desire to belong, craving a space to feel like ourselves without judgment. We live in an imperfect world where I believe we will never feel like we truly belong. Sure, we may get little tastes of a perfect world through those who love us most and who make us feel less broken, but we will never feel true belonging until we get to that perfect world. In the meantime, let's do our best to be kind to everyone. There are some of us who are more prone to feeling left out than others, so let's be sensitive to them. People may feel insecure in other areas of their lives, so let's be sensitive to their needs as well. We're all imperfect people in need of community who could all do a little bit better at helping the people around us.
Feel like you don't belong? You're not alone. Come join the imperfect people in our community of un-belonging.