06.28.16

Getting in and Fitting in

Posted in Monthly at 6:53 am by Pasha

By Pasha Holiday

There was a group of girls at my school in the fifth grade that I wanted to be friends with SO bad. They were pretty, they had known each other practically since birth, their sisters were friends (and cheerleaders.) They had all these little secret codes and words they used among one another. They didn’t come from abusive homes or have to wear someone else’s old clothes.

They were everything I wasn’t. And maybe that’s why I wanted so badly for them to like me.

As I grew older and more confident in myself, I found my own tribe. It was never like their group was, we could never make the claims on perfection as they had. We drank, we smoked, we snuck out and ran wild. We shopped at thrift stores for fun and drove old beaters that we could barely afford the gas in. But these were deep friendships that I still cherish and that shaped my adolescence.

Since high school, I have lived many lives. My network of people who make me, whom I have love and mutual respect with, and whom I admire has grown but still remains tight. These people span from California to Alabama to Chicago and New York. I am one of the blessed ones to have my partner in crime, the person who truly made me a decent adult, sharing a home with me. I would say my friendship roster, my crew, my tribe if you will, is a complete one.

I was surprised to feel the tug to fit in more than two decades later. It seemed like that part of me had scabbed over, healed and scarred. But some wounds are prime for re-injury.

A few years back, when I moved to small town (not the one I grew up in but similar in size), I felt the same yearning for acceptance that I had as a child. Not sure if it was a byproduct of living where everyone knows everyone and sees them in the grocery store or if it was because for the first time since I was a kid, it was like getting the last seat at the a coveted lunch table. While a real, true and amazing friend entered my life quickly, and maybe it should have been all I needed, I wanted that from even more people in this wee town on the Cape Fear River.

Like a girl, I longed to be invited to all the hot events that this new crowd went to. But like elementary school, we had fundamental differences. We are all Parenting Naturally, but not at all the same. They are people with families close by (some with wealth), we are scrappers who take on the world only as small, tight, immediate family units. Instead of making a change in the world, they complain that everything is against them; We do something about the challenges and build alternatives. Their kids go to bed when it’s still light out, their kids don’t wrestle one another to the ground. They are all on special diets (paleo, gluten-free, vegan, etc) and lunches are packed with scrutiny. We, on the other hand, give our kids pasta with meat sauce for dinner as they run amok long after dark.

Instead of seats that were spoken for, I found out that I wasn’t part of that crowd in a very new-age way; Social Media. Long ago, you only knew you missed an invite if you saw someone in the immediate future who was still excitedly talking about it. But not now. Now you open the internet and are crushed with parties that all your “friends” were at, but you never heard of. You see birthday parties that an entire class of your kids friends seemed to be at. And while your kid is popular among the kids at his school, his invite to the birthday parties seem to always get “lost in the mail”.

And then you conclude, these bitches simply don’t like me. A hard pill to swallow, yes. But devastating, hardly.

My 10-year-old self obsessively looks at the pictures online of smiling groups of women who all have common lives and backgrounds, and feels soul-crushed to be in the outer circle. But my 35-year-old self who has traveled the world and has already achieved life goals knows better. In this life that is no longer small and narrow, I feel like I have unlocked a secret that many of them may not have, that this little place is just a small slice of what happens in the grand scheme. It is a conscious moment when I tell the 10-year-old lurking in the head that these are not your people, that no matter how into birth and breastfeeding I was, I would never truly fit in. We are not cut from the same cloth and our puzzle pieces will never match up.

In those moments of clarity, I become more so grateful for this life, these friends, this community that IS everything like me. Instead of focusing on people who quit, I focus on the women who are holding down multiple jobs, multiple kids, multiple school boards, family sickness and taking on life like a boss. I never hear them complain, even as we commiserate over a bottle of red wine, delicious cheese-smothered pizza, with our boys shooting guns and jumping from daring heights.

As I continue to traverse this life, this world, as a mother and so many days, still a child, the hurt feelings won’t just stop. Inclusion may always be a nemesis to my emotions. But in my third year in this little town, I consciously know that I don’t need to sit at any groups’ table but my own. As I look around to my “table” of people who are strong, dependable, fearless and strange, I am wholly and completely comforted knowing that we are cookies cut from the same dough. Some of us may have chocolate chips and others are oatmeal raisin but we are all the same basic recipe of flour and sugar. These are my people.