Things I’ve been wrong about for most of my life, part two

Bewitched Park by Leonid Afremov

Bewitched Park by Leonid Afremov

Ever since I was very young I’ve felt this strange tension between feeling smart, creative, special and, at the same time weird, awkward, and out of place. The first thing made me feel happy and proud; the last three incredibly sad and even bitter. But all of them made me feel different. I moved through life pretty well, more or less, did well in school, went on to college and grad school, was in leadership roles in most areas of life. But I always felt like my true self, my real thoughts and feelings, were too weird and scary to share. I felt out of place all the time, even among friends, even when I was the leader or organizer of a group. I created a secret world inside myself and hid parts of myself there — the parts that I thought made me too strange and different, and kept me from fitting in.

But, somewhere, at some point, I started getting glimpses of a larger truth. I can’t remember when the first glimpse came — in high school or college, maybe? At some point I heard this quote by the Roman playwright Terence: “I am human, and nothing human is alien to me.” I wrote that in my journal and thought, yes. Nothing human is alien to me, and if that is true then maybe nothing in me is alien to my fellow humans. Maybe I am just human after all. No better or worse than the rest of the humans.

And I started noticing that I wasn’t the only one who felt different and alone. I began to think that maybe, actually, more people felt out of place than in. And if that were true, then maybe none of us were actually weird and different. Or maybe we were all weird and different, actually. Maybe I was weird and different, just like a lot of other people. And maybe that meant none of us needed to be alone.

I have so much more to say about this, but the sun is rising and I have to get ready for my day job soon. But today I wanted to tell you this: When I wrote the first part of this series, Things I’ve been wrong about my whole life, part one, I shared something from that secret part of myself. I had never felt more alone or more on the outside than during the time I wrote about in that essay. And something wild happened when I got brave and wrote about it and posted it on my little blog with my few dozen readers. People read it and said, “Me, too.” My friend Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery read it and said, “Me, too,” and shared it with her followers on Facebook. And then, suddenly, hundreds and thousands of people came and read it, and said, “Me, too,” and shared it with their friends who said, “Me, too,” too.

When I felt most alone, when my thoughts and feelings seemed too intense and strange and even crazy — there were literally thousands of others feeling just like me. My deepest fears and struggles, the ones that made me feel so alone, turned out to be what I most had in common with my fellow humans. Maybe the same is true for you?


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