Monday, January 21, 2008
Just yesterday, I found myself in the car, talking to two preteen girls about, well, about being preteen girls. I mentioned that I never felt as though I really 'fit in' in junior high school and high school. And suddenly, both girls were very still, sitting there in the back seat of our car. Very still, like animals caught in the headlights of a semi. Just before they are flattened. Squish.
Realizing what I'd done, I said, very matter-of-factly, "But of course, now I know that no one feels as though they fit in, really, even the people who are the most popular and self-confident," and I caught a movement, a slight relaxation, in the rear view mirror.
At first, I thought, "Oh, they're so glad to know that everyone feels as awkward as they do!" but while I was patting myself on the back for revealing one of the universe's great secrets, thus saving these two girls a lot of unnecessary grief, I realized that they only relaxed because they decided that I wasn't going to give them away. They knew that I knew they felt as though they didn't fit in; they completely missed the part where I said that everyone feels that way.
In the last three years, I've finally begun to realize that while everyone has doubts and everyone feels alone, that the truth is that we truly are all fellow travelers on this journey. Especially during this last year, when I've made so many wonderful new friends through my blog, I have felt a sense of community. We can share in each other's profound struggles--struggles with depression, and death, and parenting, and love--and yes, we only know each other via the Internet--but while I have cried and cheered for all my internet friends, I've realized that the people that live next door, and down the street, and on the other side of the world, are all struggling with those same issues.
A couple of weeks ago, my daughters and I watched Hairspray, and both girls were baffled by the race issue. Why would it matter if a white girl liked a black boy? That's just silly, they insisted. And I was so grateful that something that would have been a huge issue while I was growing up seems ridiculous to my kids. But in the car yesterday, I realized that while there are always barriers to feeling as though we fit in, the barriers we create in our minds can be just as real as the ones that are created by the society around us.
And today, I wish that I could have given those girls this gift: the knowledge that we are all in this together. I think that perhaps that knowledge only comes with time, and with friendship, and with honesty. I'm just hoping it doesn't take them forty-four years to look around and recognize all the fellow travelers. This journey's a lot more bearable when you're not alone.