I have a confession: I have never felt like I “belong”. As a kid, I never understood other kids. I didn’t like to play the same things, and I didn’t like the same entertainment.
The first book I remember reading was Jurassic Park — I was 7. After that, I read all of Michael Crichton’s books and learned all I could about the science proposed in the books. Other kids my age were reading about the adventures of Ramona and Nancy Drew while I was reading everything I could about genetics and wondering if we could really make dinosaurs from mosquitoes and if aliens were making us sick. When I was 10, my favorite shows were ER and Days of our Lives, not Rugrats or Doug like the other kids my age (funny enough, I had an affinity for Barney though). At school, I had no clue about what my peers were discussing, but I knew all about Ross and Carol’s breakups and makeups and who was killed this week on Days.
Things didn’t get any better as I got older. Around age 13, after a tornado scare, I became obsessed with the weather and the weather channel. Now, this wasn’t the weather channel of today with series and specials. It was 24/7 weather. When I was home, I stopped whatever I was doing every 10 minutes to see what was new on “Weather on the 8s” so I could analyze the radar. I was such a weird kid.
In addition to my weird entertainment habits, I didn’t have a very stable home life. I didn’t live with my mother until I was almost 10, and remember hoping it was the start of “normal”. I remember thinking that finally, I’d have chores and rules and all of the other things people had on the TV land shows I stayed up all night watching after grandma had gone to bed. Things didn’t turn out quite like I imagined. While I didn’t have a chore chart, I did at times become the primary caregiver for my little family; a task my little sister and I took turns with. The other kids were worried about who they were inviting to their birthday parties and I was wondering if there would be electricity when I got home. These things made me very grown very early and so I couldn’t relate with others my age at all.
All of these things gave me a very strange and independent personality. Even as a child, I was very reluctant to ask for help. When I was in the 5th grade, I attended a school outside my district and had to ride the city bus to school. Well, one day, I lost my bus money and instead of telling an adult, took my sister’s hand and started walking the 5 miles home. My teacher stopped us and took us home and told me to NEVER do that again, to come back to the school and tell someone. Well, the next time I lost my money, I was “smart” and took side roads home so we wouldn’t get caught. We made it home that time, but this ” I can handle it” attitude became very ingrained, so when things were bad, I just kept it to myself.
Being an outsider made me very good at pretending. Pretending to like the things others liked, pretending to understand the struggles of being a kid, and pretending everything was okay. When you spend all of your time pretending, it’s hard to grown into an individual because you just have to become those who you’re around and because you don’t want anyone to know how bad things are, you don’t really connect with anyone. You don’t really belong in any “group” because you don’t know who you really are. It’s really hard to find your place in the world.
I’m not saying that I spent all of these years alone. Throughout my life, I have had the greatest friends a girl could wish for, but I always had the feeling I was being who people wanted me to be.
Somewhere along the way, I found me. I can’t really pinpoint when it happened, but I became a mix of all of those people and groups that I was part of for so many years. I became this quirky person who can adapt to any situation and find the good in all things. I am never out of place no matter if I’m dining with millionaires or serving at a soup kitchen. I am just as comfortable in a formal dress at a fancy dinner as I am in my boots and ball-cap in the sheep pasture. In a crisis, I am the voice of reason. I became a confident problem solver and the one people turn to when they need answers or rescue. I love who I have become and I wouldn’t change one thing in my life because I have found my place in the world; it’s everywhere! I belong wherever I am with whoever is there!