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Where I pontificate global standards of “not belonging”

by John on July 31st, 2015

I was chatting with someone the other day about children & “how they fit in.” While my son is no longer a preschooler1, during every preschool parent/teacher meeting, while there may have been some things that we needed to focus on at home, the predominant news I received was “your kids are kind, and are well-liked by their classmates.”

I’m the first to admit that I view the future with rose-colored glasses . . . and the past always with an air of skepticism. I assume everything will turn out ok — but after it’s done, I beat myself up over anything that wasn’t “perfect”, and I’ve always done this2. So, it’s possible that I’m thinking back to my formative years with memories that have been “overly influenced” by Sadness and I was actually more popular than I remember . . . but I never quite felt that I fit in. Hearing this news about my kids, well, I was left wondering if my kids might grow up feeling that they will, in fact, “fit in” through school3.

Then I thought about it some more — and I think there is more to the story for all of us — though, I believe we are loathe to talk about much of it. So I’m declaring the following public truths:

  1. Everyone has a nagging fear that, no matter what group/circle/clique they’re in, the rest of the group/circle/clique is only “putting up with them” because the alternative would be more difficult for them.
  2. Everyone believes people talk behind their back.
  3. Everyone is self-conscious about their art (including music/movie/book/etc) preferences. I happen to be listening to the Audiobook of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, and I believe this is actually, simply, a different issue than it used to be. It used to be that liking anything “nerdy” or “not cool” made you “nerdy” or “not cool.” Now, it really seems that enjoying anything “in the mainstream” is what’s avoided — U2 may be the greatest band in the history of music4, yet people were scrambling over themselves in removing a free album delivered to their iPhones. We won’t talk about the seemingly universal hatred of Nickelback.
  4. Nobody likes their body. While there may be varying levels of “it’s a work in progress,” I have a hard time believing that there isn’t a single soul who would Klosterman’s 12th Question without, at least, giving the matter some serious thought.
  5. Everybody always fears that they’re a fraud, no matter how great they are at something. It’s easy to forget that, as you practice, you get better at something — things that you find easy to do today, well, at one time, they were really fucking hard for you to do. Every time I play bass (be it with a band, or in the pit for a musical, or in a symphony), something will come up where I’ll start thinking about the fact that I don’t play as fancy a part as someone playing another instrument . . . and, if I screw up, even the tiniest amount (so that I’m the only one would could possibly know), I’m just waiting for the world to collapse around me “Hey John, you’re playing the easiest instrument in this group and you can’t even get that right). The thing is, I’m not playing the easiest instrument — yes, the violin player might be playing faster, but that’s a different instrument — there are things that I’m doing that the violin player, without practice, cannot do. In the heat of the moment, though, it’s easy to forget this.

I know, with the first one . . . that’s a biggie for me. I’m constantly convinced that everyone in my life simply “puts up with me” because it’s a lot easier to do that than to deal with the fall out of trying to arrange for me to not be in their life. I know this is stupid and asinine and whatever . . . but it’s the truth. I actually think it’s part of why I keep myself so busy — because, if I’m just “sitting around,” part of me wonders why I’m not hanging out or doing something with friends5, and I fixate on that.

Or, maybe I’m just crazy.

Anyway – what did I miss? Or is the Cheshire cat wrong?

1 That my son is “a kindergartner” causes more emotional harm to me than anything I may be mentioning in this post.
2 We can talk about the fact that “perfect” is something that happens to be fully unattainable – but, well, that’s speaking rationally as we look at a blog post . . . it’s entirely a different story when you’re thinking, emotionally, on past events.
3 Part of me also wonders how much all of this “fitting in” is an introvert/extrovert fight — my inclination is to be extroverted . . . yet, there are times that “that’s it, I’ve had enough” and I just want to sit by myself for a few decades hours. And I feel guilty about that — time is a precious resource, why “waste” it by being by myself. In my daughter, I’m seeing a little of this developing — there are times that she claims “she needs to be alone.” Now, part of it, I think, is that she “wants to be alone” because she wants to watch what she wants to watch on a television or her iPad or whatever device happens to be serving as a replacement parents as I get drunk be her focus at the moment — but part of me also wonders if it’s heredity, and the electronics just so happen to be how she needs to “lose herself in the moment,” something I find myself doing by meditating these days – but, in years past, it was in masturbating playing video games — even today, I shy away from the “massive online worlds” when I play a video game, and, almost solely, play games where it’s “just me vs the computer”.
4 And this is a Beatles fan saying this.
5 The reason, of course, would be because I didn’t call any friends to make plans . . . but, when one is feeling sorry for oneself, well, one feels sorry for oneself.
  1. I don’t just “put up with you”.

  2. Muppets start kinder in 2 weeks. How did this happen?? Also, imposter system is real. And so is the Cat.

    • I have no idea how your Muppets are old enough for school. It seems that it was just yesterday where I was introducing myself to you, time and time and time again.

  3. Yes. All of this yes. I sometimes hear myself with some people and think about how different I sound when surrounded by others. Am I not being genuine? Fake? Not at all. I am who I am with either of them because I can adapt but I worry that it’ll be perceived as making me a poser. Who thinks about that shit? Apparently not just me. So yeah.

    Also? Our kids are too big and I can’t believe yours starts kinder!

    • I’m going to have a harder time, I think, when The La starts kindergarten — not necessarily because she’s a girl, but “being a dad to a preschooler” seems that my kids are still little. A preschooler needs her parents way more than a school-aged kid.

      So I’m not truly redundant until next year 🙂

      And yeah . . . the list of self-criticising comments that run through my head, as I go about my daily business . . . well, it’s insane.

  4. So this stirs up all kinds of thoughts in me. Number one being that I am SO glad my older girls are twins, because unless something goes terribly wrong, I know they will have each other. I don’t believe one of them will ever leave the other out in the cold, at least not in elementary school. My youngest is that extroverted kid who makes friends everywhere she goes – everyone adores her – so I’m not worried about her either.

    I don’t think I ever truly felt like I fit in with anyone until my 30s. Like super recently. But we have a group of best friends for 10+ years, and sometimes I still find myself questioning why they chose ME (and my husband) to be a part of the group. Even though we are all like family, I still feel insecure at times. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in with my blog friends because I question whether or not I’m authentic enough. Basically, I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if anyone really likes me, and if they make it clear that they do, I can’t seem to figure out why. Because I still feel like that shy, awkward kid who, in the pressure to say something funny or profound, often said the complete wrong thing.

    Also, I was anti-mainstream before anti-mainstream was cool. 😉

    • It’s funny — I went most of my life trying my best to “fit in” . . . as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried less & less to “fit in” and, at the same time, I think I’m fitting in better. Or maybe I always have.

      I’m going to be quite interested to hear the reports, next year, from CJ, about how Leila is doing . . . my kids love making each other angry & pushing each other’s buttons . . . but, they look out for one another, when others are involved, more so than I ever imagined they would.

  5. Most everyone is mad here. Utter truth. I love the Cat, unlikable feline that he is, for his naughty, clever truths. I think you’re right, we all suffer from it. I have come to a pretty solid truce with myself on the topic, but I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of it completely, certainly not as long as I keep writing novels and then offering them up to people for consumption.

    And as for my son? I worry about it a lot, and am I doing the best I can to prepare him for being someone likable and able to move through the world in his own skin, but also for the fact that not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone, and that? That is okay.

    Congrats on Kinder, by the way. I promise, watching them conquer school kicks ass.

    • I’m enjoying being a spectator in the school world so far.

      Every now & then, CJ will talk about how “nobody plays with him,” though the reports I have from his teacher & my sister-in-law (a first grade teacher at the same school) are that he’s a popular, well-liked kid. I think there is a combination of that CJ doesn’t like to set himself up for failure . . . so, rather than ask to play with someone with whom he wants to play, he’ll just seethe when the world doesn’t just do what he wishes the world was doing.

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