I am the original square peg. Quite often I feel, at best, like the guy who makes you wonder, “who invited him?” or, at worst, like the unbelievably annoying guy that makes you scatter when he walks up. But if I was gone, people would wonder where I went. This may be my superpower, and I’ve been tapping into it more often than usual these days.
When I was a kid, I used to build models now and then. I wasn’t a hobbyist, but I enjoyed putting together the odd kit. I remember putting together one piece that was a scene from the old Planet of the Apes movie. It was Dr. Zaius standing at a pedestal of some sort. I was coasting along pretty nicely then hit a roadblock.
One of the pieces was off. For some reason, it didn’t go through the molding process in the factory correctly and was a mirror version of what it was supposed to look like. It wasn’t a significant piece of the puzzle, it just wasn’t quite right, and even though most people probably wouldn’t notice it, I always did.
Throughout my life, I’ve always felt like that model part — not quite fitting the right way. I was wondering this morning why that might be and stumbled on to something. It occurred to me that from the time I started school and all the way through college and into grad school, I was always out of the mainstream.
In the second grade, I transferred to a Catholic school where most of the students had been together since kindergarten.
I was only three people from my eighth-grade class to attend Central Catholic High School. Most of the other students came in with large groups of people they had knows since childhood.
I attended a staunchly Southern Baptist University as a Catholic for one year. I was also a Hispanic in a decidedly white student body at that institution.
In my junior year, I transferred to Trinity University, a mostly resident campus. I lived off-campus.
You can see how, for most of my life, I’ve never felt like I was really a part of what was going on around me. I was always coming in to already established social groups. But why does this matter?
All of us deal with baggage. For me, it’s the sense that I don’t quite fit in anywhere. Your baggage may be different from mine, but we all struggle with it at some level and want to find ways to get over it. Most of us, though, aren’t quite sure why we have the struggles we have or where they come from.
Several years ago, I began to travel the path of recovery. The process hasn’t been easy, but it’s helped me not only identify my worst ways but also why those toxic actions came to be in the first place.
One of the most valuable tools has been the development of what my friend Jenn refers to as a “recovery mindset.” I’ve learned to instinctively filter my life through the processes that recovery has instilled in me. So when I start to have a bad day…or two…or three, I have a means by which I can assess what’s going on and where it might be coming from.
I often wonder what life would have been like had these insights come at a younger age. Maybe I would have spared a lot of people the pain of my toxic behavior. But I also know it took me an entire lifetime of mistakes before my heart, mind, and soul were ready for the learnings of the last several years.
In any good story, the protagonist needs to transform in some way. It’s part of what keeps the audience engaged and cheering on the main character to overcome the obstacles in his way.
My hope for the last half of my life is that I’ve transformed in a way that will empower me to overcome the wounds of my youth. I hope I can inspire you to do likewise.