...is the title I decided to go with on this sleepy Sunday morning, though I considered "Why is Fitting In Always the Goal?" and "No, I don't Baaa-aaa-aa-a." Neither of those headers seemed cordial, though friends and family would appreciate the humor in the latter of the two.
It's a self-absorbed post is what I'm trying to say. Hit your "back" button now and escape to some other pretty website if fluffy, fair and politically correct is more your taste this morning. I'm going to indulge my narcissistic self in the words that follow. You've been warned.
It's been said that I tend to march to the beat of my own drummer. It's true, and wasn't a problem in Alaska where ten years of working at the same school and living in the same neighborhood made me one of the daily norms, nothing out of the ordinary, certainly not a surprise. Since leaving the frozen north, I've been hopping around from school to school only staying a year, having a "guest spot" teaching position, making an initial impression and then leaving at Uncle Sam's bidding.
Being Alaskan, I tend to be extremely self-sufficient. It's not a boast, it's a requirement. Lifelong Kansans who have experienced, endured and survived their share of floods and tornadoes know what I'm talking about, as do people who live in areas of extreme environmental conditions. As a military spouse living far from extended family, each of Dear Husband's deployments marks a shift in our household out of necessity: it's my way or the highway. It's not that I don't want to be a team player, it's that I'm NOT a team player. Not out of spite, not out of judgment, not out of some misplaced vein of superiority- I am, for the most part, comfortable letting other people be themselves, keeping their own rhythm, hoping that I too, will be afforded the same consideration.
Many men and women feel comfortable, nurtured even by belonging to well-defined tightly-knit groups. Like my students, I appreciate loosely structured, safe environments, and because of my varied interests, I like the freedom to float between them. I appreciate my own space, a wider vantage point, an occasional foray into a shared experience over there, then one over here before I return to my den. And for the past six years, my den has relocated frequently.
I'm happy to follow the big rules: don't hit, don't hurt, share, say "please" and "thank you," but the clique-ey social norms of "Thou-shalt only sit with teachers from thine school" or "Thou-shalt only speak with wives whose husbands share your husband's rank" strike me as petty, limiting, and in many cases, isolating. You say you "belong." I wonder if you're actually trapped. It's a difference of perception, nothing more. Be discriminating, selective. Do what makes you feel comfortable. Yes, you deserve to feel safe and supported. So do I.
But comfort to me isn't the feeling that I fit in. It's not the result of going out of my way to exclude others just so I can say I belong. Comfort to me is the feeling that I'm welcome. Welcome to come, welcome to go, welcome to share, welcome to just sit and listen. Welcome to be away for awhile. Welcome to ask for help. Welcome to give a hug, welcome to give a person his or her space.
In my mind, the big rules are the most important, the most essential prerequisites that determine whether or not a person should be welcome. "You haven't taught here long enough" is not a big rule. "You don't go to our church" is not a big rule. "You look/sound different from what I'm used to..." is not a big rule. "You blog and I don't" is not a big rule. The same goes for "You drink coffee but I drink tea," "We're officers, you're enlisted," or "You're an aide, I'm a teacher."
I'm sticking to my truth. I just gotta be me.
(Thank you Mr. Larson)