Wanting to belong

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 8, 2021, 6:23 PM | comments: 0

I've never really felt that I belonged. I mean that in the broadest sense, as applied to social circles, family, places, work, relationships, school, etc. That probably sounds very sad, and maybe it is, but not fitting in is something that I'm so used to that I mostly don't allow it to affect my overall happiness. This might even be one of the reasons that I'm not very nostalgic about, well, anything.

I was working today on my annual self-evaluation at work, when this came to mind. I know that in more informal situations, I try to make it known that I'm part of the gang, which likely comes off as weird as it sounds. I've got a pretty good track record of delivery, but I find myself wanting to augment it as something more, to be one of the cool kids among my peers, if you will. The truth is that for as much as I've come to expect being a bit of a square peg, I don't choose that. I've definitely had a life where I've tried to fit into those round holes.

That reflection, which is already a large component of what I do at midlife, often leads to an inventory of very lonely and difficult situations. I recall many situations in high school and college where I felt bad about myself for having such a difficult time with interpersonal relationships. In college in particular, I had a lot of very deep connections with women that ended in benign friendship or outright "no thanks." Was it me?

Let me keep some perspective here. This is me largely looking back, but occasionally checking in on how I behave today. Right now, I have arguably the best partner in life I could possibly have, who does not judge me or rate me, and maybe even excuses some of my eccentricities. Diana is an extraordinary match for me. Having been married before, and knowing how that didn't go that well, I can own a lot of that. (Just to be clear, Stephanie and I are still friends, and she'll always be one of the great loves of my life... we get each other even if we weren't an ideal couple.) I'm doing my best as a parent, I have a career that is uneven but certainly successful, and there are a few people who really seem to enjoy hanging out with me. That's good enough to call life so far a win.

The winning doesn't mean that there isn't hurt. Not fitting in doesn't feel good. One thing that I've done outside of therapy is schedule a full diagnostic to determine if I have autism spectrum disorder. I talk to the psychologist next month. If Simon can teach me anything, it's that I recognize much of what he deals with because I've been there. Whether it's not wanting to walk in the sand on the beach as a toddler or struggling to find close friends, I get him. I'm not always good at working with him, but I definitely get him. My last two therapists have suggested that ASD has always been a part of my life, but they're not the right kind of professional to diagnose it. If it's real, it explains a great many things about my life. If not, well, more therapy.

When I go back to Singles, one of the greatest movies of the 90's, I'm always reminded that Janet said, "People need people, Steve." It's true. That's why we need to belong.


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