Black Sheep

For today’s prompt, I re-tooled an older piece of writing.  I know you might think that’s cheating, but it fits so well, and is the exact answer I have in my heart.  You have my word that it isn’t laziness…but I’ll let you judge for yourself.

 

This prompt stirred in me quite a rueful feeling.  A tribe, itself, is quite a beautiful idea; groups of people, bound together by common goals or ideas, hobbies or interests, jobs or social backgrounds.  It evokes a feeling of fellowship and belonging; a smaller network of support in an otherwise unforgiving whole.  It is commeraderie and help—both joys in terms of my rather Marxist ideals.

As I pieced together my personal definition of a tribe, it became more and more clear to me that though I’d previously contributed to any number of groups that fit this bill, I’d only very few times felt as if I actually BELONGED to any of them.  From the time I was a little girl, I’d always felt my “otherness”; a nagging idea that no matter how hard I tried, I would always be JUST THAT MUCH different than everyone else participating.  Different than social anxiety or paranoia and their ilk, this feeling was more just a knowing that while everyone may be smiling to my face, behind those smiles, they just found me ODD; too odd to fit in, too odd to accept completely, to odd to continue inviting without the buffer of the person who’d originally introduced me.

Over the years I would develop ways to cope with this, and I’ve found that I’ve come full circle.  As a child in elementary and grade school, I’d just let the odd out, not quite understanding that the jeers I was receiving were the result of my own actions and words.  I was only just learning that in order to be a part of my school tribe, I’d have to hide the different way that I looked at and related to the world.  In high school, I’d learned that lesson, and went the road of assimilation, hiding those things TOO well, denying MYSELF in favor of the most popular friends and parties.  In college, I changed again and was struck with a hellish cognitive dissonance, trying desperately to find a middle ground between the two.

It’s only recently, in adulthood, that I’ve reverted back to letting my crazy out of the closet.  Being someone else for so many years took its toll on me, and all the old coping mechanisms began to fall apart.  As a result, I said “To hell with it” and decided that a true self is the best self.  Do not mistake me; this choice did not lead me down a road of blissful social ease.  The only difference now is that instead of children, they are adults who look at me askance, trying to no avail to understand my processes and the jerky way I fail to blend into my surroundings.  “She’s nice enough, and fun” they say, “but sometimes, I just don’t know…she’s just, strange.”

Though used to the sidelong glances and the constant feeling that I’m being judged for my peculiarity, I’ve never become completely accustomed to the feeling of loneliness that it breeds.  I stick up for myself, and I speak my mind in my own queer way.  I embrace my oddity and prefer to define my personality as distinctive, but there is still the longing that overwhelms me sometimes to fit my square peg in everyone else’s round hole.  This conflict is part and parcel of living in my skin.

I’ve encountered many tribes recently (not the least of which is this beautiful Twitter family).  All of them have lent something fulfilling and given me scores of knowledge and new understanding.  From the teachers at the various schools I shuttle between weekly to the girls I train with at the gym, I’ve injected myself into different scenes hoping for a fit; for a place to be entirely myself without needing someone to ‘explain’ that “That’s just how she is.”  The fact remains, however, that I have yet to encounter a community in which I belong completely–sans judgmental smirks and curious looks, or even just the niggling feeling that “there is something strange about that girl….”

So I envy you out there belonging to your gay community, your writers’ tribe, your young, city-living groups and your new parents’ cults.  I envy the ease at which you all participate together and support each other and present a united front towards those not-in-the-know.  It looks warm on the inside and cozy, and maybe someday, I’ll feel comfortable past the front vestibule.  For now though, I’m my own…a tribe of one.

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19 thoughts on “Black Sheep

  1. I don’t know about this tribe thing for me either. I have friends, for the most part. The best of which are too far away to go visit every day. I do theatre a lot, and there are people in that. But I don’t think I’m in a tribe either.

    For a while, (and sometimes still) I wished I was. But the scary thing is these days, I sometimes don’t care I have no tribe to call my own. I don’t know if that is the sign of becoming unhealthy, or a sign of becoming healthy…

  2. First of all, reworking isn’t laziness. If you’d just reposted, then yes, but going through and editing and making it right? No, that’s quite the opposite.

    Second of all, I’m kind of like you in that I have a number of different tribes that I *could* belong to, but I’m not sure that I 100% fit in any of them. I can do the chameleon thing – hell, I was an actor for 10 years – but ultimately I’m happiest when I get to pick and choose where I belong on any one day. Selfish? Probably. Happier? Definitely.

    • For me, it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes, I’m content to sit back on my perch in my alone-ness and pick the world apart. Other times, I feel such a desperate need to belong that it almost physically hurts. It’s not so much me that does the picking and choosing, I fear, but the world around me.

      • Yeah, I get that. The problem with picking and choosing is that there are some days when I want people to pick me, and because I’ve been the Kat that Walks by Herself so much before, they then choose not to pick me. It’s a tricky line to walk.

  3. When I saw this prompt I froze, much for the reasons that you write here, being the oddball in every place I’ve ever been. What you wrote feels so familiar. So I’m waving to you here in cyber space, just glad that you are you and that I get what you’re writing. Makes me feel less alone.

  4. I always liked you because you were Jennifer. All of the things that make you “crazy” or “different” are the idiosyncrasies that define you. I would rather have my small tribe consist of people who have accepted me without reservation then have a larger tribe because I was dishonest with myself.

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