When I saw the daily prompt from yesterday my first thought was, “When was there a time I DIDN’T feel out of place?” There have actually been some times that I felt I belonged. But feeling like the odd person out has been a life-long habit. I’ve been aware of it for a while and thus working on breaking the habit. Really as I’ve become more calm and centered, I don’t even think so much in terms of whether I do or don’t belong. But it used to be a big issue.
It started as a child living in a northern industrial town with parents from the south. We vacationed with family in the Bluegrass numerous times a year. I spent summers hanging out at the Polo Club or the Hunt Club and listening to advice about going to an eastern school, etc. and then wandered back to a world where kids only said “Yes ma’am” sarcastically and half the kids in school weren’t college bound at all let alone getting advice on picking a school with the “right” people… And I was a bit too much of a yankee to blend in the south. I never felt like I quite fit in either place.
Skip ahead to moving to Portland, OR after dropping out of graduate school. Oregon was a big hippie destination at the time and full of folks on a “back to the land” venture as well as a huge population of hiking/camping types. I moved into a hippie collective where I’d have thought I’d get along. Wrong. I had a pretty good list of creds on the protest march and environmental work front but I’d never fully subscribed to wearing the hippie “uniform” or living a life that looked like every other hippie. These folks had never done anything politically but they had strict rules about how you had to dress and decorate, etc. Since I violated their rules by wearing turtlenecks, drinking coffee, and painting my room white, I became the house scapegoat. Needless to say I was soon looking for a new place to live…
But I didn’t fit in well anywhere there. People regularly told me to my face that I was too obviously urban and intellectual for Portland. I enjoy taking a short hike in the mountains but I’m not a big outdoor person and I loathe camping. So imagine my joy at sitting through endless discussions of how many miles people walked with how many pounds on their backs and minutely detailed conversations about what they packed and in what order in their backpacks. I wanted to scream! Eventually I started talking about how I planned to pack my clothes on my next upcoming trip. For some reason that didn’t go over well…
I”ve always made friends and have many friendships that are decades-long (including a couple from Portland) but I’ve never really fit into groups. It’s just me. But for as much as I’ve tended to walk my own path I don’t think there was ever a place or time in which I so thoroughly failed to fit as my three years in Portland.
This is for the Daily Prompt from yesterday, Land of Confusion.
See also my earlier post Between North and South on my other blog.