At some point, we all desire to fit in. We desire to see ourselves surrounded by people that we can say with confidence we belong with. Like many others, I spent most of my life looking for a place and for people who would make me feel included. It wasn’t until I entered college that I found no such place existed. Instead, I have found comfort in surrounding myself with people who aren’t like me and becoming a better person for it.
Let’s be honest, we are all a little too complex to ever feel like a group of people is a perfect fit, and trust me, I have tried them all. No political party really describes me, and the more I talk to others, it seems the more they agree. We are too complex to be defined by a list of policy opinions. While I would like to say I could support any candidate just because they align with my party of belief, I would be lying if I did not say I was greatly dissatisfied with at least one aspect of every candidate and every party. For me, I could not find belonging politically.
I tried fitting in with the church and have found some of my greatest friends there, but I would be lying if I did not mention that there are times when I know I’m on the outside. Not one of our theological beliefs aligns perfectly, and our personalities are -of course- all different. The church has satisfied nearly every aspect of my life, and I have found peace and comfort in the Lord, who has gently walked me through the process of self-learning and love. However, I did not find an unequivocal place to belong.
Neither my friends who were like me nor my family (who in some ways are just like me and in others seem like they are for different worlds) satisfied my need to feel included. My free spirit just never could be contained in one single group. Instead, I have found satisfaction in the depth of belonging I have found with people who are not like me.
In groups of international students and friends of all ages, I have found belonging, although we don’t share anything similar. Together with our differences, we have developed the ability to connect, love, and empathize with each other. I found inclusion in our mutual desire to share our lives.
I found belonging in the organizations I joined, where I knew no one. Where my voice could be heard, and where I could listen to the voices of so many other women who were different than me. In learning to be united by our womanhood and duty, we found love for each other’s differences.
While there is beauty in the places where those are similar to me, I found there is most belonging in the places where others are not.