I have vivid memories of those painful adolescent years when being in with the “in” crowd was the highest aspiration of everyone in school. You know, the “cool kids” – always surrounded by a little collective of admirers. The kids whose friends were also cool kids, usually the ones with the good grades, teacher’s pets, cheerleaders, athletes, class officers, in all the important clubs, at all the games, asked to dance – getting my drift? Oh how I wanted to be one of them. And oh how I tried, and failed, to be accepted into their midst. Oh yeah, every once in a while we might talk in the hallway or connect over homework or some odd thing we had in common. But those were rare moments and, like in the movie “The Breakfast Club”, back in the daily grind I wasn’t really anyone that mattered in their very special and privileged world.
That phenomenon followed me all the way through High School. I hated High School for the most part. I was bored with most of my classes, with the exception of music, art, and, when the teacher was really good, English. I was one of those kids who knew lots of people, but didn’t really belong anywhere. I had one or two people I hung with, but they were always attached more strongly to one group or another and when push came to shove, I got shoved. I was shy and uncomfortable; not terribly confident; and trying hard to figure out who the hell I was. Not fun for a young girl trying to know herself.
I was so happy when I graduated and got away from the personalities that seemed to reinforce how unappealing I thought I was. I went off to The Fashion Institute of Technology and found some other escapees who felt liberated from their former high school pigeonholes. We hung together for dear life and gave each other solace. Those liaisons lasted a while, until new little groups began to form and some of my newfound pigeons flew the coop. Suddenly I was living the same bad dream I’d had in high school. I knew lots of people, but the cool kids had attached themselves to each other and I was once again on the periphery. The pattern continued.
I left school and went to work. More liberation! I had grown some, had some experiences under my belt and felt a little (only a little) more confident. I met a lot of people from many different backgrounds and began to see my world expanding. I worked in a large company and found some like-minded people to hang with. We had music, clothes, and righteous indignation in common and we had fun together. UNTIL…enter the divisive “groups”. And, over time I found myself on the periphery once again.
Fast-forward about 40 years and here I sit making a really important and informed observation. I am the “Periphery Queen”. And more importantly, I like it. I’ve found that the more I try to “fit in” the less the likelihood that I will. Why? Simple. I’m not a “fitter-inner” and I have found that being part of any group, while for a bit feels good and secure and welcoming, usually means that I need to compromise something that isn’t worth compromising. It also means that I’m part of something that somehow is excluding someone else and that is exactly the energy that has made me feel so lonely and left out all these years. I finally know that I need to be authentically myself, which often means that I simply won’t fully fit into whatever group has formed around some topic, theme, effort, or program. I inevitably will find myself on the periphery, watching and observing while I do my own thing to support whatever effort I’ve chosen to work with. Yes, sometimes it gets lonely and I might feel left out from time to time. And, when that happens I try to work with the feelings that come up and remind myself that I’m OK being the Periphery Queen because I have chosen it in order to keep myself grounded in my integrity and authenticity rather than jump in up to my neck so that I can be part of the “in-crowd”. It’s a choice I’ve made. I love choices.