Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh I Just Gotta Be Me... 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)


  1. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Good job, daughter. I've always thought that people who have a hard time allowing others the freedom to be what they want, do what they want (within the dictates of their hearts and the laws that guide us)- must certainly be the saddest, most insecure people in boring to surround oneself with people just like oneself.

  2. Wow. I don't usually respond - more of a lurker I suppose -, and I realize this is an old post, but I couldn't stop myself from commenting after reading your words, rereading, then reading them once more. Bravo! I have never in my thirty four years been able to articulate my personal feelings on this topic. Yet here they are, my very own feelings, in black and white, stated more eloquently than I'd ever be able to do! I used to be a "fitter inner", always trying to blend and meld into certain social groups. I was very popular yet miserable & exhausted from trying to please everyone but myself. Then I had a rough few months and realized how little fitting in mattered. Now it's the Big Rules I follow. Even though it's made me kinder, more patient, a better person, mother and teacher, some of my colleagues (fitter inners!) use my Big Rule rule to gossip I'm not a team player. As Kindergarten teachers, we should embrace our OWN individuality so we can be excellent role models & show kids it's ok to stand alone proudly & be unique! This post is bookmarked & will be reread OFTEN! (Stepping off my soapbox...LOL) LOVE your blog! :)

  3. MK, so glad you visited and found something that resonated with you! I myself re-read posts in my archives to measure any shift or change with how I'm feeling from school year to school year. This post still rings loud and clear with me too.

    I believe if associates and colleagues would put as much time into 1) coming straight to the horse's mouth to ask one another specific and honest questions directly 2) and NOT jumping to easy conclusions (which tend to be gossipy or titillating in nature), they might end up realizing something deeper about a person's *intentions*.

    My personality might not match the other hens', but that doesn't make me a threat/fox in the henhouse. It just means I'm different. Since diversity is the rule on this big blue marble of ours, I believe it's a lesson they should internalize sooner rather than later.

    Especially since they're teachers, you know?

    Have a fantastic school year!



As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!