I WAS ALWAYS DIFFERENT
Growing up, I was shy, quiet and introverted. I was the kid that sat on the bench by myself for the most part watching the other kids play. Always wanting social interaction, but always passed by for someone else that appeared to have more or be better. Back in the day, before Baby Momma’s/Daddy’s, my mom was they only divorcee in our neighborhood. She was shunned by the other women in the neighborhood who were so insecure in their marriages that they thought that one of their husbands might in fact be crazy enough to leave them for a woman with six (count em) kids! She worked at a thankless job as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and struggled to raise us six by herself. My Daddy was in earshot, so to speak, for emergencies but he was absent. My Mom had to buck up; to be everything and provide everything we needed. We didn’t have much more than each other. I had a poor self image, low self esteem and didn’t value myself much. I always walked with my head down. At the time, I couldn’t see a reason to look up.
I did have a handful of friends, who for one reason or another were out of the playground loop as well. We were all misfits. Perhaps this general lack of belonging gave us all a sense of camaraderie. We felt safe with one another. We would comfort and reassure each other when one of us was subjected to teasing or attempted bullying. Nevertheless, Elementary School, was a struggle to survive. Because I didn’t belong and had no older siblings to protect me, there was always some kid who was bigger or a member of the dominating cliques, who felt as if they could arbitrarily lash out or take their bad day out on me. Mostly kids from the projects who saw me as someone they thought they could victimize. What they found out, was although I was little in size, I had the heart of a lion along with a brother who had the foresight to know that I would be picked on and taught me how to box. I hated to fight; however, being a “Smith” it was against our code to not stand up for myself and take a beat down. I don’t know what rule number it was, but my mother told me that I was never to put my hands on anyone — to start a fight, but I better finish it if it came to me. Nor was it allowed for me to be chased from the school yard home. So in the tough urban hood I grew up in, every single day, I was challenged; and every single day I was obligated to return fire. I was always different, when what I wanted most, was to just belong.
CAN’T LIVE IN THE WORLD BY MYSELF
My upbringing conditioned me to live in the world by myself. A very lonely existence. Even when I was surrounded by people, I felt alone. Other people seemed to be having fun — enjoying life. I was an active observer to their process. I didn’t want to live in the world by myself. I longed for a larger circle of friends and engagement. I picked up some habits that would prove to be harder to stop doing than they were to start. In my quest to belong to something or someone larger than myself. I lost myself in the superficiality of life lived in the fast lane. What I discovered, when I was well immersed in the world, was that I wasn’t willing to continue being and doing the things that I had to do to be apart of that team. Waking up next to a stranger in the morning and not remembering how I got there because I had drank too much, didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy sense of belonging. It made me feel empty, dirty and low down. In retrospect, I’m thankful that my recklessness didn’t cost me my life. That I didn’t wake up with an incurable or deadly disease.
THE COURAGE TO BE ME
I don’t know who that nameless, faceless person is who gets to decide for us all who we need to be to belong. What they’ve done is put barriers between people rather than give us the freedom to be who we are and allow others to be who they are; appreciate our differences, and find a commonality within each other which would allow us as a people to love one another. Living this life is rugged enough without the undue pressure of conforming to a standard of so called perfection that’s unrealistic even for those who seem to have a jump start on it. I’m so glad that God doesn’t require me to be something or someone I’m not in order to gain His love. That is to say that God does not, Christians, still people sometimes place conditions on their love. It’s not Biblical, but it is what it is. After living life outside the loop, I’ve learned to fend for myself, to stand alone if need be. What falls under the “need be” is, if to belong requires that I give up my identity of who I am – I’m good. I’m a unique individual. God created me as He wanted me to be: curly hair, brown skin, almond shaped brown eyes, wide nose, and full lips. He made me not too tall but tall enough to do anything I want or need to do. He shaped me perfectly to conceive, deliver and produce the children He wanted me to birth into the Kingdom. All three are replica of myself…that is the God in me. If I’m good enough for Him just as I am, I’m okay with that, even if it means that I belong only to Him.