I love stories.
Reading them. Watching them. Writing them. Telling them. Getting lost in them. Witnessing them unfold.
Stories fascinate me. They excite me. They also pay the bills.
When I was a child, I’d make up stories about my life.
No, I wouldn’t tell my friends and convince them they were true. That’d make me a liar.
I’d write them in books for only my eyes to see.
In my stories …
My dad was white.
My mum had a job.
When I came home from school, my parents would ask about my day.
Exam results were always celebrated. With hugs.
Our family went on holiday to a new country every year.
I felt alive when writing them. Like I was God and had the authority to paint whatever landscape I desired using the power of my words.
I’d literally lose myself in these stories. I’d imagine so hard and wish so much that my life would reflect them, that for a moment, I’d forget who I was.
And when I emerged in the real world, I resented it not reflecting the safety of the stories I wrote.
The truth is, most people’s stories are average
Mine certainly were.
I didn’t write about dragon slaying heroes or warriors leading armies. The leading characters didn’t have magical powers or battle their way through endless labyrinths.
My stories reflected what I thought was ‘normal’. What I saw on TV. What I assumed everyone else had.
Loving parents who noticed them. A family that welcomed them. A community that supported them.
I went through life thinking I was the only one who felt like she didn’t fit in with her own blood.
Children who grow up feeling like they don’t belong spend adulthood finding somewhere to belong
In relationships. Jobs. Communities. Marriages. Groups of friends. Moving from one country to another.
On and on they go, desperately searching for the one thing in their life that’’ll hold them and gently whisper: I accept you.
Relationships continuously end because he just wasn’t right for me.
New vocations are sought because they never feel fulfilled.
The up and move cities without notice because maybe there, I’ll find friends.
They search for that feeling of being whole. And until they know exactly what that means, they’ll continue searching for it. This illusive thing that lacks definition.
How will they know when they’ve found it?
As the saying goes: Everywhere you go, there you are.
And it’s the start of identifying what being whole actually means.
It’s one that hit home for me very recently.
I was planning travel for the upcoming year and asked my friends if they’d like to join me on some of the trips.
The answers I got were:
Hhmm I’m not sure I want to go there.
Let’s talk about it closer to the time.
Maybe. I’ll look into it later.
They all lacked commitment.
And quite rightly so.
Why would these people, with lives, jobs and responsibilities, drop everything to go away with me?
Yes, we’re friends, but their perception of friendship didn’t reflect mine (which is ok).
And part of me wanted to wait. Or change my plans for them. Or convince one of them to accompany me.
I felt needy.
It’s the neediness that comes from an adult trying to find where she belongs.
We’re in this together. I love you. It’s comforting. We’re on the same path and want the same things. I see parts of myself in you. It’s safe here.
For weeks, I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way. It rattled me to feel this neediness that came from the desire to have a travelling companion.
And I hated myself for it.
So I did what I’m good at: I wrote it all down.
The more I wrote, the more it dawned on me that the real reason why I wanted a travel companion is that I was afraid to be alone.
Given that courage is one of my biggest values, this was a particularly shitty revelation.
So I wrote some more.
And what emerged was not only a list of all the things a travel companion would give me, but how I could give those very things to myself.
It was liberating.
Because everywhere I go, there I am.
Which means if the person I’m with 24 hours a day isn’t enough, then no companion ever will be.
Give yourself what you want the world to give you
Whether it’s a relationship, a job, a new place of residence or a community.
What’s missing from your life that it’ll give you?
Write it all down.
Make that list.
Then next to every item on that list, write down how you can give those very things to yourself.
Need physical touch? Meet with a friend for a hug. Get a massage. Buy a toy.
Want to be acknowledged? Phone someone who has acknowledged you in the past and thank them for it.
Lacking a sense of community? Start to join groups that share your interests. And if you don’t know what they are, start experimenting.
Want to feel wanted? Help someone today and don’t expect anything in return. Even if it’s helping that stranger down the stairs with her push chair.
Do you know what a weekly calendar for a 90-year life looks like?
The folks at WaitButWhy.com made one:
How many of those weeks have you checked off already?
Which ones were spent waiting for that sense of belonging to arrive?
How many more are you willing to spend allowing that feeling to maintain control?
Do the exercise of writing down where your sense of belonging is lacking, and what’ll fulfill it.
Then figure out how you can fulfill it yourself.
Because everywhere you go, there you are.
So make where you show up the best place to be.