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Longing for Belonging

This time of year seems to show us just how much we yearn for something that can't be packaged or bought. Eventhough we are surrounded by the message to "buy, buy, buy" We don't have to listen to that, because we all know, it's so much more than that.

When I was in grad school we had to take a class on equity in education. It was one of the most interesting classes I ever took because it focused on unconscious bias in teachers and leadership. The class taught us how easy it was for a teacher or anyone in a role of authority to look down on a student. There were plenty of "reasons" this might happen unconsciously. It could be the way a student talked, where they lived, who their parents were, the history of their family, the color of their hair, their skin, or even what football team they liked.

I was absolutely dumbfounded that we needed a class for this - until I started listening. I started hearing what other teachers were saying from their own experiences as a student. I remember so clearly my own experiences of being a very poor kid, with a troubled family that probably didn't look like I was going to be the greatest success in life. Thank God I had kind teachers, but there were a few that judged me and I realized after taking this class that it was unconcious - they weren't being mindful of their words. Creating an environment of respect is one that can be challening and so rewarding, all at the same time. I believe those things are lost this time of year as well. It all boils down to listening.

My professor in undergrad that sneered at me for coming to class wasn't angry with me - he was merely pointing out that he thought girls were supposed to get married and have children instead of getting an education when he said, "why are you back? I thought you would be off getting married by now."

I didn't see it that way. If anything it infuriated me, but I took it personally and shouldn't have. At the time, I felt judged and humiliated. He made me feel like I didn't belong because I was a girl. Such bullsh*t, right? What's actually bullsh*t is I let him get to me... I should have listened to my own voice that said, "I have ever right to be here."

And yet, I see it all the time. Things we say or do around other people and how quickly that person no longer feels like they belong. We instinctively have a longing to belong. So what happens to people who don't have family they feel safe belonging to, and then go to school where they are unconciously judged by people in authority? How do they find where to belong?

Hopefully, they start to listen.... We all must listen to ourselves. We have to listen to the voice inside of us, the GOOD voice inside that drives us to do better - not because we're told to, but because we must. It is the only way to find out who we really are. At the end of our lives there are only two people we need to make proud, our 8 year old selves and our 80 year old selves. That's it. No one else. And yet, all those people that shut down because they have silenced the voice inside of them that brings them to their most authentic belonging spent so much time blaming instead of listening to their own voice.

Today, spend some time reflecting on everything you've experienced in this life.... How can you flip it to be a good thing? What were the lessons learned. There are never any mistakes, just experience which becomes wisdom when we use each lesson as a guiding light. Belonging to our authenticity, belonging to a greater good, that is all we need for that longing to disappear. It is a confidence in knowing, we are meant to be exactly who we are, as unique and insteresting as ever, and smiling about it.

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