I spent the morning with my friend Michael last week. We did what is probably my favorite thing to do, talk over coffee. We touched on myriad subjects: the loss of friends, relationships, kids, politics, religion, flying, our college experiences. I told my partner later that same evening how much I value Michael’s insight, perspective, but mostly his friendship.
We all want to have life-giving friendships. As I’ve grown older, my circle is getting smaller. I tell new people I meet, with tongue only partly in cheek, that I’m not taking on any new friends. There are many reasons for this, and some of it is by design, but it’s mostly circumstantial.
Our group found each other as we worked through re-thinking our spiritual paradigm. While the tipping point was different for each of us, we were all led to a place where our lives intersected, and we discovered we weren’t alone on this journey. We found each other and liked what we saw.
Even the most introverted among us want to have at least one person who knows and hears us, who we can go to without judgment or fear of rejection. The problem is what it takes to find people who you can be fully authentic before without any concern for what they think of you.
When people coalesce around shared interests, it isn’t long before rules, spoken and unspoken, set the standard for who’s in and who’s out. If you aren’t fully on board, you must choose to ask questions or remain silent. My experience is that even if challenges are allowed, the questions can only come from those who “fit in.” At that point, one wonders if they were ever really a part of the tribe.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I never quite fit in. There has always been a little something leaving me thinking I was on the fringes of the organizations and communities I was involved with. As I experienced rejection after rejection, I sunk deeper and deeper into a sense that there was no place for me to really belong without giving up who I am.
Through a series of not unfortunate events, my journey led me to a bunch of other misfits, heretics, and questioners of the status quo. As it turns out, we were cutting ties — some by choice, others not so much — with who we thought we needed to be in search of who we actually are. That also meant leaving behind long-held beliefs, presuppositions, and communities that wanted to give us black-and-white answers in a gray world.
Now, I get to share life with human beings like my friend Michael — and Kayla, Erika, Barbara, Carmen, Megan, Taryn, Daniel, Alex, and David. After decades of feeling alone in the crowd, I found myself among those who understand and embrace living in the tension of unknowing. I never feel like I have to explain myself, earn acceptance, or worry that I’m “doing it wrong.” The only “it” is accepting that which moves us toward the best version of ourselves and knowing that each of our unfolding stories is unique and beautiful…no matter what anyone else thinks.