Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 17, 2016

Outsider.

I’ve been circling this idea, this belief in my outsider-ness, for the better part of a week.  It’s about time I commit some thoughts to pixels, I think.

A friend of mine pointed out that in my telling stories about my life, he was noticing a pattern: that I see myself as an outsider in almost every context.  He suggested that I might need some healing around that, this sense that I don’t belong and don’t fit in, before I get drawn into any geographic relocation.

Maybe I was particularly receptive to hearing it that day, but it struck me rather forcefully.  I mean, the truth of it.  It’s a big part of my personal narrative.  I’m feeling like I need to peel back all the layers of this “outsider” role and see what’s there, what parts of it could be softened and made malleable, what parts give me strength, what parts hobble me like a ball and chain.

On the one hand, there are aspects to relish about being an outsider.  I don’t feel beholden to lumbering, fossilized notions of what constitutes a successful, meaningful life.  I’m free in ways that many people aren’t.  I’ve chosen to reject certain well-trodden paths in favor of maintaining my own sense of integrity and authenticity, even if that often comes at a high price.  Being on the outside of various established systems, institutions, and hierarchies allows me to have a perspective that “insiders” just can’t have.  It’s one thing to be a reform-minded soul immersed in a less-than-optimal system, and quite another to be a radical, on or beyond the fringe, refusing to accept cultural norms and structures as a fait accompli.  This kind of outsider-ness is not something I’m willing to give up.  I want this freedom of movement and action.  I want this access to varieties of knowledge, dangerous knowledge, intuitive knowledge, that is not available in the prescribed doses and formats.  I want to honor this part of me that snarls at the notion of questioning being an “outsider,” that growls Do not cage me.

On the other hand,  I need to delve deeper into the ways that believing in my “outsider-ness” hurts me and keeps me isolated.  I don’t think it’s an unmitigated boon to see myself as a misfit.

Obviously, to some degree, I’ve internalized the messages of industrial civilization which would necessarily paint someone like me as weird, crazy, and unworthy.  The baggage is old.  It’s all entangled with childhood wounds around wanting to be liked but also feeling incapable of adjusting to various expectations.

Earlier this week I wrote little notes to myself about outsider-ness, and one of them reads: Maybe I belong more than I think or feel I belong.  Maybe what I tune into so much is other people’s feelings of isolation, weirdness, ill-fittingness, not-belongingness.  It’s not just those feelings, though—it’s all the feelings.  It’s not that hard for me to find the shared ground with others, to empathize.  And yet I ricochet between feeling deeply and universally connected and feeling withdrawn and alienated.

It’s a habit for me to flee.

To be continued.

(Continued, here.)

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Responses

  1. That’s the thing about geographical cures. We take our stuff along with us.
    I wonder what would transpire were you to intentionally try not fleeing, Jen. I’ve experienced social anxiety in the past. Could that also be in play with your outsiderness?
    But I get that other side about nonconformity to social norms just to be accepted. I wouldn’t want acceptance from them, either. Lotsa fine lines to tread.

    • Oh, and “To thine own self be true.”

    • Yes, social anxiety is part of it, for sure.
      It’s funny responding to your comment now, a scant few weeks since you wrote it, but already feeling like I stopped running, and I’m good, now.

  2. I’ve been an outsider all my life. I’ve come to think that’s kind of special. It’s been incredibly painful at times, but it’s given me an “epic” experience. In my spare time I’m exploring the likelihood that it’s produced by a combination of social and “genetic” factors. (I’ve put “genetic” in quotes because the processes involved are far too complex to sum up in one word.) In my case, it had a lot to do with having a particular kind of sensitivity (part of what makes me a writer) and being born into a family system that devalued this quality. My early recognition of social injustice and its effects on the psyches of those who found themselves on the wrong side of it were antithetical to the values of my family. I experienced my growing up years as a constant assault on my identity by people who embodied so much of what I saw as wrong in the world, and yet, whom I loved. As I moved out into the world, I realised it wasn’t just my family. They, in fact, embodied the values of the world. That was very depressing for many years. The passing of time; the dying off of family and old nemeses; the evidence that a society based on greed and exploitation that may reaching its nadir, forcing people to try something new; and the knowledge that my own end is getting closer, have lifted the depression and left me with a sense of humour concerning “the human condition.” I hope you don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to experience the reward that comes with the validation of your perspective. But even if you do, it’s worth it.

    • I am deeply gratified to hear of the lightening of your load, Feral. Seems I get more and more experiences of ease, lately, myself, so maybe I don’t have to wait.

  3. […] About three weeks ago I wrote about feeling like an Outsider. […]


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