A Square Peg on a Round Planet

Sitting in a room of 20 strangers, my hands began to sweat. My heart had already begun beating before I even got to the building. I looked around the room. I was sitting at what seemed like to be the head of this make-shift meeting room table.

You know the type of set-up: A bunch of foldable tables lined up in a “circle”… well, square? Maybe it was a rectangle. Anyway, you can picture this, correct?

Yep, I think I have found myself at the head of this table set-up. To my left is a man I know a bit because our daughters hang out. To my right is a woman I’ve met, or we at least exchanged “hellos” a couple of times, but I can’t tell you her name right now. The rest of the room… strangers.

I don’t even know if I have to talk while I’m in this room. I’m just nervous about the idea of spitting out something so weird, they will all hope I do not return. Then, it happened. Ugh, it really happened.

The guy I know, who sometimes leads this group, said… are you ready? He said:

“Why don’t we all go around the room, introduce ourselves and say something about ourselves?”

More sweat on my palms. Faster, harder heartbeat. I figure out I will be the last to go. I am trying to pay attention to all the introductions. I’m doing that trick where you repeat their names in your head and try to associate those names with something that will help you remember. This one is single, these two are married with an 8th grader, this one has 2 cats who think they are her kids… funny… I’ll remember that when I talk about our pets… this one is married, but attends alone… HEY! Me too! Another connection…

The connections don’t really help the way they should. My heart sounds loud. Can they hear it too?

I thought it got easy to do these types of things as you got older. You supposedly stop caring so much.

The lady before me is going… three boys, crazy, hectic life….

Oh no! My turn is next. What is she saying?

In case you’re wondering, I was fine. I spoke in cohesive sentences that didn’t make anyone seem uncomfortable. I remembered to mention I was married, had two kids, know the guy through our daughters… and something about really having six kids because of our two dogs and two cats. (It worked, the woman with cats giggled.) Said my husband was at home. (Woman who comes without hers nods.) Connections.

This brings me to my point of this.

Does everyone feel like they are a square peg trying to fit on a round planet?

Socially, we have decided in the past 10 years to take up stakes and put them in our own corners, with people who believe what we believe. Interacting has become a minefield of avoiding saying something that will set off the person across from you. I almost wish for pins that say something to the effect of:

It’s ok. You can say anything.

I don’t mean, “It’s ok. I believe what you believe.” That would lead to an extremely boring life for me. I like discourse and true debate. I am obsessed with trying to figure out why another person believes something about which I could never get on board. It is also my mission to explain the other side of any issue…. whether or not I agree with it.

However, I am also internally socially awkward. I’ve already touched on that in an earlier post. So, when I’m asked to say something to a room full of strangers, I turn into a 12-year old girl, hoping the kids in school don’t laugh at me when I stand in front of them and explain why I connect with Helen Keller, who I picked to emulate as my hero for a class project. (True story… and yes, it was soooo awkward.)

Every time I find myself in a situation where I have to speak, everyone comments on how easy it always seems for me. I will be standing there, across from them, with my heart still rapidly beating because I had to say my name out loud to a bunch of semi-strangers…. and they will say, “You have such a funny, relaxed way of telling stories.”

Yeah, easy for you to say… you don’t have this organ beating wildly in your chest, and a brain in your head telling you that you are going to embarrass yourself.

I actually do find it amusing that speaking to strangers is so difficult for me. I was in a communications field for 20 years. However, being behind the scenes did help me not have to talk to the outside world.

And, I could psycho-analyze the heck out of myself to find reasons why I react the way I do, but that is not the point of this blog entry.

My point is, I find myself constantly trying to fit into spaces that seem not to be shaped for me. Then, when I go to new spaces, I get nervous about my judgement and wonder if I will find myself trying to wedge a square shape into a round space.

In that same room yesterday, the discussion turned to those times in our lives when we have to make hard decisions and go against what we thought we were supposed to do in order to end up where we are supposed to be. We also said many times you have no idea it is the right space until you leave it and you can see why you were there.

Perspective often clears things up.

I can say that about every move I’ve made even the one to leave my dream destination. I KNEW I was supposed to live in San Diego. I just KNEW it. Once I got there, I would be there for life.

And, 9 months after I FINALLY made it there, the job turned out to be the worst, and shortest one I held in media. The worst. I kept going in to work with a grinding pit in my stomach. I felt sick. Most of the time I cried in my car. Imagine a 20-something, driving down the PCH with the beautiful ocean to my right, sobbing. I absolutely hated my job.

But, I was in San Diego! My aunt, uncle, and sweet little cousin lived in walking distance. I got to see ocean sunsets every night. My dog and I would walk to dog beach… WALK!… and watch the sun sink into glorious colors bursting through the sky. It was all heaven…

…except the place where I spent a majority of the time. I kept fighting it… until my mentor called and shamed me into coming back to his station.

And three years later, that is the town where I met Jason, the man I would fall in love with, have two beautiful daughters with, and would bring a family to the table that accepted and loved me as their own.

Leaving my “dream” took me straight to my DREAM.

I look back now on that awful experience that was mixed with sweet family moments, and I know. I had to go through that pain and feel awful every time I walked into my job in order to move past that dream and find my actual life. However, believe me… I wish I was still watching that sunset… but with Jason and the girls.

Everyone in that room yesterday could relate. We started sharing stories about being on paths that felt awful, but staying there because we thought we were supposed to be there. Then, a fork would appear, and all we saw were weeds, and we thought, “Why there?” That path almost always seems to lead us somewhere that fed our souls or built up our arsenal of friends or made us change our lives in a way that changed our families for the better.

(I paraphrased all of what we said… it was actually stuff like… “We moved to such and such, where we knew no one, and didn’t like it at first, but now looking back we can see why we did it.” I just wanted to wax poetic a bit.)

So, what about this space we are all in right now? I seriously look around the current state of our country and wonder what will take us out of all the divide. I wonder how we will be able to move from this current space of anger and hatred and back into just disagreeing with each other.

Do you remember when you just disagreed on policy, but when out for drinks after the debate? Oh, no, that wasn’t me… that was Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. But, you get what I mean, correct?

Right now, though, I can tell you there is a large group of people who would refuse to have a beer with another large group of people. Two large groups who refuse to discuss their differences, because calling names is easier….especially when you sit at a keyboard.

But even now, as I try to force my square peg into this round world, I know there will come a time we will look back and say, “Ah! That is why.”

I just hope that time comes soon. I’m tired.

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