by Vangi McCoy (Cohort 1, Southwest)
The pandemic has caused me to pause and think quite a bit about both belonging and loneliness. In fact, I’ve become a bit obsessed on the topic of belonging and creation of community. During social isolation and sheltering at home many of us have flourished creatively, finding a new rhythm to the day and feeling more alive than ever; while others of us feel like we are teetering on the edge of despair–think the razor’s edge of a 14’er–and how we could easily go down (way down) or triumphantly make it to the summit. What’s the difference between those two scenarios really? This has been a source of reflection for me over the past several months. I’ve always had the mantra “it’s all about relationships,” and I’ve been mentally putting it to the test. What we have become increasingly skilled at in the absence of physical togetherness is finding ways to create, nourish, grow our relationships. And perhaps we have taken the time to analyze our relationships to see which ones are most important and why. Which relationships can withstand the test of endless Zoom meetings…
Before we can dissect this thing called belonging, we must first figure out how to belong to ourselves–to feel comfortable in our own skin, know where we want to go in life as our own humanity stares at us from the mirror–this act of gentle self-awareness happens as you learn to put the critical voice inside to bed. For me, this has taken the shape of self-care as I take indulgent time to explore what’s within through meditation, journaling, music and reading. We all have our own ways of doing this and it’s more critical now than ever. Then and only then are we going to be able to identify our tribe, our crew, our peeps with whom we belong and will thrive.
I heard Brene Brown say that the opposite of belonging is NOT loneliness, but rather fitting in. How much of our true selves must we give away if we are constantly trying to fit in? Being in a situation where we don’t belong is not a pleasant place to be. I know that I give in to all kinds of negative self-talk and doubt when I am trying to fit in somewhere that I don’t belong. At 61 I am finally getting pretty good at figuring out where I belong. Do I stumble? You bet I do. Each of those stumbles help bring me to where I am today. I certainly don’t have it all figured out but am continually learning to embrace my unique inadequacies and idiosyncrasies and seek those who can embrace them too. At the end of the day when we are clear about who we are and what we value and connect with others that align with us, it’s a beautiful thing and true community is born.