I grew up in a very small town. The kind of town too small to be serviced by buses and where you personally knew the families that namesaked every establishment in town. It was a safe place to be a child, and children should feel safe. I didn't even own a house key until I moved away from home, because we never locked our doors. But in a town where everyone knew everyone and families had histories going back three or four generations, my experience was quite the exception. I grew up an only child in a single parent home. My mother had moved us to this quaint little town when I was very young, but we didn't have the same sort of ties to it that everyone else did. The collective attitudes of my town, like many small towns, were conservative, Christian, and Republican; none of which was subscribed to by my mother and none of which was imparted, by her, unto me. I grew up learning about our relationship with the universe, and the importance of treating everyone with respect and love despite how their appearance or identity or beliefs might differ from your own. If you had to identify the set of beliefs I grew up around, I guess you would call me a "New Age Baby".
Mom was always considered to be a bit off-beat, which she couldn't have been more proud of, but I must admit, at times, made me feel embarrassed. But while I straddled the line between fitting in and being normal and really being true to who I was as a person, I couldn't help but feel that I was fighting a bit of a losing battle. I am not for a second going to pretend like I was the only adolescent in history who has felt out of place. That story is a tale as old as time itself and it does not belong solely to me. I'm not going to say that I was a loner or an outcast because that would be an inaccurate claim. But I did feel like I was putting on a show. Like I was trying to deny the fact that I did not feel like I belonged.
There was an isolating aspect to this place. It was not entirely uncommon for its residents to spend their whole life never having travelled more than 100 miles or so from where they were born. And they were perfectly content to keep it that way. It always felt like a little bit of a time warp; like it was frozen, suspended in time, never moving forward, never acknowledging its role in a grander spectacle. I, on the other hand, was chomping at the bit to leave. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world up close. I wanted to cultivate a relationship with it. I desperately wanted, no needed, to get out. And I did. I chose to go back to Canada for university and during a study abroad in the UK the summer between my third and fourth year, I finally answered the question of what I was going to do after I graduated. A year later, I got rid of 90% of my belongings and got on a plane to London. Flash forward four years and I am currently upheaving myself for the fourth time in as many years. After London came Whistler, British Columbia. After Whistler came New York City. Next stop: Hawaii.
I will be the first person to admit that my career has not been my focus. I graduated university with a B.A.H. in Political Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and no idea what to do with it. I guess I just never thought that was the point. Travelling gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It helped me to unearth things about myself that I had buried a long time ago for fear of negative reception and ramifications. Travel made me bold. Now, I get to live my life by my own rules.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe it's not such a terrible thing to feel like you don't belong. As long as you recognise that there are places and there are people that you can find that will feel like home to you. You can find a group of people with a shared consciousness that will accept all of the pieces of you, no matter how broken or disfigured. You have the capacity to realise that you being different was never the problem. Sometimes you just need the courage to leave that place that feels familiar and to seek out that magical and freeing space where authenticity can reign. I have had the absolute privilege of living the majority of my adult life in that space. No question, it comes with its own set of challenges. But theREWARD has been more than worth the risk. Like I said, I am far from the only person to ever feel like they didn't belong. But I have managed to find my way into a whole new world of lovely people who accept me as one of their own. This does not need to be an exceptional story. We all want things. It's time we stopped making excuses for our dreams and started pursuing them! As for you, may you want it more than you're afraid of it!
Thank you to Erin for sharing her story.
Want help paving your own way? Reach out to Jenn DeWall, Denver based Career & Life Coach for Millennial women