Sometimes I still feel like the outsider on the sidelines, always looking in, never one of the “in” crowd, never invited to “play in any reindeer games.” I watch as people interact around me, form their groups, their cliques, their friendships, at times tentatively, hesitantly, reaching out, only to feel rebuffed or ignored once again. I know this isn’t the case, and I have heard so many times that you just have to be a part and join in, but…these feelings don’t live in the rational part of my brain. They’re hardcoded in somewhere else, somewhere that my rational thoughts have little access to.
I do keep trying to untangle the coding though.
It’s a leftover from my childhood, I’m sure, from having been one of those kids that never quite fit in and was too shy to try-and so afraid of rejection if she did that it was just better not to, to claim that she didn’t want to be invited, didn’t want to be a part, was fine on her own.
I have read that this is a common reaction/trait of people that move around a lot as children. Being the child of a railroad worker, we moved every year or so, and although I have lived in St. Louis for more than 20 years now, I still feel unrooted. When people talk about having a “hometown,” or “going home,” I can’t relate. The last home I lived in with my parents they’ve long since moved out of, and I was only there for three years of my life anyway. What kind of roots can grow in that amount of time? Still, when I watched a video recently of a locomotive taking the tracks near where I spent those years, I did feel a sense of…something. Homesickness? Loss? Nostalgia, maybe. It was hard to define. But even as I felt it I wondered if they were manufactured feelings. I’d never felt I was leaving my home when I left, never felt a part of that small, tight-knit mountain community when I was there, and didn’t miss it in the years since. As with many small towns, I could have lived there for twenty years and still been considered the “outsider,” and was never fully embraced or taken in by the locals. Perhaps that sharp bite of longing I’d felt as I watched the video, as I walked around the railyard where W and I looked at the steam locomotive, was merely wishful longing on my part–a wish that I did feel homesickness. That I had a place that I could be homesick for.
I married a man for his roots, thinking they’d reach out and entangle me–and that I’d be happy that way: rooted down, captured. I wasn’t, though perhaps if his family had treated me as more than an outsider, if they had welcomed me, I might have been. It’s hard to say, now, although knowing myself as well as I do, and if I am looking back with honesty and not with wishful “might-have-beens,” I know that I would not have been happy no matter how they treated me. Wanderlust and rootlessness, that restless gene, is too deeply seated in me, too much a part of my psyche, as is my fear of rejection.
And perhaps, because of that, I caused my own ostracization. Perhaps I held myself aloof, just as I did as a child, withdrawing rather than risking rejection.
Perhaps I do so even now.
All these petty fears and insecurities. How to shed them, how to throw off the shackles that they bind me with? I admit it, I am not “fine on my own.” I don’t want to spend my life feeling like an outsider. I want to be accepted and loved and welcomed, I want to be a part of something greater than myself–I want to fit in.
Pitiful, ain’t it?