When I was adopted, as I spoke about in moms, dads and ducks, there were many gatherings to attend that celebrated my parents’ new chapter of guardianship and my induction into the family. I felt like the new kid in school having to meet an already established group of people, in which I would hope to make connections with at least a few. However, these were not friends I was trying to assimilate with, rather a family of strangers that I was to somehow call my own.
One of these parties took place at my newly named grandparent’s house. My dad had six other siblings, with each of them having at least two children. Do the math, but my little four year old self had many a relative to meet and remember. Somehow I was supposed to fit into this web of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents that had already been well woven.
Why did everyone know my name? Why was everyone saying congratulations? Why was everyone giving me gifts? Why did everyone stare at me? Amongst refreshments and chatter of my homecoming being the center of conversation, I still felt so little and unknown.
I was torn between the hope of a new family and wanting to be back with my grandparents, which was known to be that of familiarity.
My new found cousin and I received matching outfits as a gesture of future friendship we would surely have. The shirt displayed a large portrait of Ariel’s face while the shorts were splattered with the remaining characters from the Disney movie. We quickly put them on as we were corralled to the front steps of the house for a photo op.
Unlike my cousin, it had been insisted that I tuck in my shirt, due to the thin yellow elastic band that was cinched around my waist and would admittedly enhance the outfit. I hated it. I wanted to be like my cousin; she did not have to tuck her shirt in. I was already the outsider, why did I have to stand out even more?
I wanted to fit in.
I have struggled with this concept to an exhaustive extent. We all have. Throughout our existence, we as human beings will often struggle with grasping and accepting what it means to fit in and what it means to belong. Do you ever find yourself trying to be like everyone else; mimicking certain nuances, whether you agree with them or not? Have you fallen into the framework of anxiety, depression, and a deep lack of self-confidence from the constant pressure of obtaining perfection? Who hasn’t been here?
What I have come to realize is I never really wanted to fit in. I wanted to belong. Fitting in required the molding of myself; forming around someone else’s list of likes, wants and desires, while belonging merely called on embracing my true self as others openly surrounded and supported me. And, although this mindset will require a constant shift in thinking, I can begin to claim with confidence one truth:
I belong. Tucked in shirts and all.