In contrast to how a child belongs in the world,
adult belonging is never as natural, innocent, or playful.
Adult belonging has to be chosen, received, and renewed.
It is a lifetime's work.
Have you ever wanted to be included? To fit in?
Well, I have a simple suggestion for you. It may be a no-brainer, but hang with me, here.
Don't go to a private university if you are 40-something or over.
When I went for the competitive interview for academic scholarship, I took the (rather cheeky) opportunity to ask my interviewers about the percentage of "older students" currently attending. I was quickly corrected that the term is "returning students," and that there was a small, but important contingent of these older wannabe scholars. In retrospect, that small number of students must be hard to find, as I have seen only 1 or 2 in the 3+ weeks I've been walking around campus. No, they are not in the Commons eating. And, they are not studying in the library, either, at least that I have seen. They are not walking to class, nor attending extracurricular lectures. So, where are they? I'd really like to know, since perhaps I would fit in with them a bit better than I do with my fellow classmates.
Y'know, as I'm thinking about it now, I probably won scholarship based upon my age. Wow, that's encouraging.
Sitting in a classroom with young women who haven't yet been passed over for a man in the work-a-day world is quite an eye-opener. It's no wonder I don't fit in - ever heard of the "generation gap"? Still applicable, it is an old fashioned term to describe the lack of ability to relate to a person several decades younger or senior. I attribute this obstacle to arrogance and ignorance.
On my part, I admit that I am arrogant due to the fact that I have lived through a hell my classmates can't even imagine understanding, and further, I am completely ignorant of their perspective, music, and style of relationships. Likewise, they are amazingly arrogant that they have it all figured out, especially if they are a senior, as well as glaringly ignorant of the fact that there is a good change they will get squashed like a bug upon leaving university - it's rough out there, and they just don't know it yet. All this leaves me with a burning question...
What the hell am I doing here??
Not fitting in, that's what. But, this is not really a new thing, just the same old thing that makes me so desperately done with trying. I didn't fit in to elementary school, and I didn't fit into middle school (who does??). I didn't fit into high school, nor did I fit in with the political game-playing of retail employment. I sorta fit in while employed at the behemoth Boeing Company, but was still glad to bid my farewell when I was blessed with our first child. I didn't fit in with being a public school parent, so we became a homeschooling family. Amazingly, I didn't even fit in with various religious groups, despite herculean effort. Then, after many years of slogging in the trenches of parenting, I finally acknowledged (out loud) that my hubby and I didn't fit together, either. Gosh, what a record of rejection.
In contemplating fitting in...let's just call it being accepted, shall we?...there are many places that I don't. My brother loves to go to concerts, but I don't fit in with his party-going, rather-hippie group. My father loves to hang out at casinos and dance with lady luck, but I don't fit in with that group of society, either. No religious group would deem me 'worthy' enough for their ranks now that I am divorced for a second time (among other things), nor do I fit in with political-social-justice types who spend their time volunteering like mad dogs. Where does that leave me?
ac-cep-tance, n., the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
I am sure I am not alone in the quest for acceptance. According to Meyers-Briggs, I am in the measly 1% of personality types. I am pretty sure that doesn't make it any easier for me to fit into social groups. It's not that I am anti-social, flat out irritating, or anything of that sort - really. The personality experts simply say that for the intuitive, empathetic, over-feeling INFJ types life is just hard. We know things and see things that others don't, for whatever reason. That makes us different - that makes me different. OK, sure, everyone is different (read: unique), but I can't help but to think that the more populated personality types have more social success, even if only by sheer numbers. But pondering personality type as the sole basis for not fitting in is rather...depressing, right?
So, as I look forward to another ten weeks of the semester and all the overwhelming heavy reading and writing required, I resign myself to being alone and viewed as rather strange and, well...old. Then, after this semester, there is another. Then there are several years beyond that. To top it off, at the end of all this striving, I will have to try to find a place to fit in and somehow earn a living. Yeah.
I have always admired those who went back to school later in life, and now I know why. It's harder than anyone expects or understands. Young people are flexible and resilient. Perhaps it is because they don't know any different. Having lived several difficult lifetimes, then going backwards, is challenging at best...self-flagellation at worst. Maybe it is so difficult because I don't really want to start over again, another effort at trying to fit in. It takes a lot of time and persistence - I know, I've done it before...many times.
So how many times can you get beat and still want to play the game?
That, my friends, is a really good question.
You can't build a society purely on interests, you need a sense of belonging.
~Valery Giscard d'Estaing