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The endless struggle to find that feeling of belonging

Sometimes I sit here (or in other places – mostly other places like at the beach or on the loo – why do so many man think on the loo – I digress) and think about my place in the universe or more reasonably my place in my little world. There are two schools of thought that people should conform to the norm or be individual and I sit squarely in the latter. It is a choice I make because I’m more comfortable that way. However I note that it at times has made me feel left out and that I don’t belong anywhere. It is something I struggle with all the time.

The last time I felt that I truly belonged was probably when I was 18. I was comfortable with my social group and had been throughout high school and VI form. They weren’t easy times. Our social group was a mix of boys and girls and in all honesty I was the least liked of the boys by the girls. The reasons for this have never been made clear to me. I’m guessing there was a reason. If someone pointed a gun at my head and asked me to guess I’d probably guess right. I remember one girl at one point fancied every single member of our social group throughout those five years bar me. I’m not saying this upset me but it is something I remember noting at the time. You wonder why it is. You look yourself in the mirror and try to work out what is wrong with you. It hurts.

Still that was one part of it. The male side of the social group and myself were solid. We had good times. However when I went to university I would never settle back down on the Isle of Wight and you drift apart. I have not seen any of those people since a wedding in July of 2010. I hadn’t even spoken to any of them in about 16 months until the other day. My best mate at the time and his partner are expecting so I got in touch to say well done, good luck and you’ll be a great dad etc…

I don’t yearn for those days again. I have moved on but it did get me wondering about my place and finding somewhere where I truly felt I belonged. I didn’t at university. I had friends but I never belonged. There are many reasons for this but two of them are at the time I drunk but never ever to get drunk and I didn’t really enjoy going out much. These are two things that I have had to struggle with all my life. People not drinking is not normal and people think that there is something wrong with you.

Another issue is that of self-confidence. Now these days I don’t struggle from a chronic lack of this. I won’t say I’m brimming over with it but that isn’t an issue that keeps me awake at night any more. In my teens and early 20s though my lack of confidence was terrible. I couldn’t see that having a lack of confidence in itself put people off knowing me. It was a spiral that I couldn’t pull myself out of. Confidence is a strange foe. How do you get it when no-one gives you the opportunity to get any?

In the end on that front it was a charity shop that dragged me out of it. Volunteering and people actually thinking I was worth something. Who would have thought that seeing a Crimewatch reconstruction one evening would lead me to getting some self-belief and a sense of self-worth. Well that is what happened as there was a robbery on a charity shop and I hadn’t really thought about doing anything like that. All I was doing was moping about trying to work out my next step in life and there we have it.

I suppose you could argue that I kind of felt I belonged there. However I was moving out of the area and the two managers both left at the same time so things would have been different anyway. I suppose you could argue I feel like I belong when I do Hospital Radio. I have done it for so many years and with the same core of people that it just works. So maybe I belong there.

However that is but a small part of my life. I started this post by decreeing that I made a choice that I’d be an individual and I’d live by my rules no matter what. This has without a doubt led to some sad times and certainly many feelings of inadequacy. Not going with the crowd is tough when deep down all you want is to be liked and wanted by people. When you swim against the tide it is easier to stand out but you are also easier to dismiss.

It took me many years to understand who I am to the level that I understand myself now. I think it is fair to say that I have not been this contented in a long time. I have no more feeling of belonging than I did when I was in my late teens or early 20s but I have found that the need to belong isn’t actually that important.

In the past 48 hours I have had to sit down with a close friend to help him make an extremely tough decision with regards to his first proper relationship. I myself have also felt the sting of seeing my first proper relationship end with a surprising jolt as well as have someone else on the phone to me in tears as someone she loved had passed away. Not the most straightforward of periods but that’s life.

What it showed me is that people I care about come to me if they have issues. That makes me feel good as a person. I have always said that I have no delusions of grandeur and that if on my death bed I can look back and say that those close to me felt that their lives were enriched by having me in it then that is all that I can ask for.

So maybe I don’t belong anywhere but you know what? I think that is actually ok. Maybe one day I’ll feel like I’m truly wanted and that I belong somewhere or with someone. Until that day though all I can do is carry on down the journey of life. Where that will take me I have no idea. All I can say with any assurance is all I want to be is a positive influence on those close to me. If I can do that then I think that is good enough for now.

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