I think everyone has experience being an outsider, being outcast, being unwanted. If you never have… congratulations, I guess? I… don’t know how you managed that but… that’s good, then?
But for everyone who has, it’s a terrible experience, made all the more worse when you are the sole exclusion. Whether it’s from a group a friends, a special club, a high school clique, a group of coworkers who all have lunch together, or even a collection of relatives at a family gathering, being the only one not let in, or even just feeling like you’re the only one, is a desolating experience.
When I was in grade 4, one of the kids in my class was moving with his family to another country. He invited everyone in my grade to his going-away party… except for me.
Apparently he didn’t do it intentionally, he just forgot to invite me, which, in a surprise twist, did not make me feel any better when I found out.
This wasn’t the first time I was excluded from something, nor was it the last, but this one always stuck with me. I never harboured a grudge at the guy or anyone else, but I instead internalized my hurt feelings. I started seeing this as evidence of who I must be, who people must see me as. I was the guy people forget about, or the one people would prefer not to invite to things if they can avoid it.
In all honesty… I’ve believed this for so long, it still takes effort to be able to type out the following:
I know it’s not me. I love me. I love who I am. I love what I am. I love the things I think and the stuff I do. I love that I care a lot about people. I really, really care a lot. And if people think I don’t… I don’t know what to tell you; you’ve clearly misjudged me.
I love that I am smart. I’m not like, insanely, memorizing an incredible amount of facts smart, but I know I’m smart enough to finish law school or journalism school if I wanted to. I haven’t done those things because I don’t want to. They’re not for me, I don’t want to be a lawyer or a journalist. At least not now. I want to write. I want to help people. Those things are my jam. If I can do both, that would be great. If I can’t… then I’ll do one as a career and the other in my spare time.
I truly fear being a selfish person. I spend so much time beating myself up in my own head in part because I believe it’s the only way to keep myself humble. I have to remind myself that fear is ridiculous and destructive. The fact that I’m afraid of being selfish means I probably have nothing to worry about. The real problem is not taking care of myself and providing the same care that I want to give to others upon myself.
I love that I have integrity. I love the fact that I honestly never understood what people meant by “having integrity” because the idea of always speaking honestly, doing all things according to your moral principles, and doing what you say you will seemed… obvious to me. I’ve been hurt by a lot of people who I thought had integrity because it seemed so natural to me that everyone must have it, right? Well, no. But I have it. Tons of it. I always mean what I say, except when I’m being sarcastic, which is all the time.
I love my sense of humour. It’s out there and it changes a lot, because I hate going for the obvious joke or the one that isn’t clever or witty. I love finding new things that make me laugh and I don’t like the idea of laughing at the same joke again and again unless it’s a treasured memory you’re bringing up with those you love.
I love that my interests are so varied, I have no way of quantifying them. I love stream-of-consciousness postmodern books, sci-fi novels that are hopelessly out-of-date the second they’re published, formulaic superhero movies, poorly-structured big budget fantasy movies that bomb in theatres, games that involve charades except for charades, trying incredibly dumb-sounding foods at moderately-price restaurants, rollerblading in an underground parking lot, finding intimate moments out of ridiculously bizarre happenstances, biting and acerbic wit especially for incredibly mundane or moronic topics, the way kids can turn anything into a boat or a spaceship so long as they can stand in it, parents who don’t talk down to their kids, seniors who hoard the strangest objects, teens who are bizarrely responsible for their age but still goof off like a child, talking to people who are interesting in really specific things most people don’t understand (including me), reading with people but not reading to them, ok fine reading to them but not like interrupting them while they’re reading another thing, you know what actually that’s fine in small doses, deeply personal stories told in trust, deeply personal stories told to encourage others, the smell of a construction site after the rain, the sound the night makes in the middle of an empty road, the numb feeling you get when you rub the tips of your fingers on a carpet for too long, very specific and hard-to-find teas, seeing mountains on the horizon, helping out insects that are stuck inside, libraries that still have story-time for kids, families who can talk honestly about how much they are annoyed by each other, families who love each other even more because of this, people who spend their lives looking for creative ways to create peace, help the destitute, and take care of the sick.
I love people who have no problem pivoting from jovial to serious caretaker mode, people who have their own sense of fashion not beholden to the thoughts of anyone but themselves, people who look for secret paths while they’re hiking, people who love adding intricate little details to their crafts and arts, people who haven’t lost the inner child and use it to connect with others, people who think deeply on things, people who may not think deeply but believe even deeper, people who have a favourite author but still love to try new books, people who have a favourite comfort food but still try new foods, people who show their love for others through organizing and planning and they just can’t stop being on top of things, people who are not so good at planning things but always look for other ways of showing their love, people who don’t let anything stop them from doing what they love and sharing that with everyone around them, people who think of jokes no one else could ever possibly think of, people who deliver jokes in their own special way that no one else could replicate, people whose love shines so bright you could guide ships with it, people who are relaxing to be around, people who inspire you to do as much as you possibly can with what you’ve got, people who speak their minds in love and care, people who speak their minds with slightly less tact but are no less concerned when they think they’ve upset someone, people who are loyal in everything they do, even what stores they shop at, people who think out loud and passionately, people who don’t talk much but let their actions sound out like a megaphone, people who are experts on something and know it and just want to teach everyone about why what they are experts is just so cool you don’t even know, people who are loud and have opinions like there’s no tomorrow and use these abilities to make everyone around them feel at home, people who still try to keep up with technology and the news no matter how old they get, people who don’t do that as they age but are no less witty and charming, and people who value love, mercy, compassion, hope, and faith above all else.
That’s me. That’s a whole lot of me. And even though I’m always inside my own head, I have a hard time reminding myself of all of this.
I reject myself because I internalized the rejection I got from others. I forget who I am because I believed I was someone who was forgotten.
But that is not true. That. Is. Not True.
I know my value and no one else’s judgment or assessment of what they think I am worth will change that.
I’m still working on telling myself that on a daily basis. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But all I can think about right now is all the people who are where I was. The ones rejected and forgotten; the ones on the outside of the party, feeling alone and desolated. And I have some words for those people, but I have to remember that this includes me.
So look. Look here.
You are welcome in. You are always welcome. You are remembered and you are worth so much more than you can possibly imagine. Let yourself in.