The more “new years” that come to pass, the more I realize how much I don’t fit in. As an evangelical Christian, conservative woman, I realized in 2017 just how much that is the case. I don’t fall neatly in line with the opinions of evangelicals like Russell Moore and Ed Stetzer, nor do I fit squarely with evangelicals like Franklin Graham and Mike Huckabee (or any number of well known evangelical conservative politicians). I don’t even ascribe to the exact same views as Beth Moore (and I bet she would be perfectly fine with that). In 2017, I discovered after much examination (a virtual necessity when writing a research paper) that I am not completely in the complentarianism camp nor am I wholeheartedly egalitarian. In many debates, I am finding that I can see both sides of an issue…and am starting to feel, well, annoyed by the loudness of the cymbals folks on either side of the aisle are clanging together (insisting they are right, there is no middle ground, and the other side is dead wrong). Heck, I even realized that while I voted for Donald Trump, I wouldn’t have voted for Roy Moore (thereby equally angering “never Trumpers” AND Moore supporters). You see: I just don’t fit in.
But I never have. Having just adopted my first child after 14 years of marriage, I didn’t fit in with my peers who for well over a decade before me were birthing babies. For years, I sat in Sunday school classes with newly wed couples sharing their excitement over their pregnancy announcements, but feeling more and more like I didn’t belong. And now? Most of the couples with children as little as mine are a lot younger than me, and it’s just different being the older new mom.
Not only that, but I am a woman with a PhD. While these numbers are certainly growing, outside of academic circles, it’s pretty rare. And some people aren’t comfortable with this…leaving me feeling, once again, like I’m out of place. What’s sad is that others likely feel the same way – as if they don’t belong because they have less formal education. Yet I cherish and value all of my friends, regardless of education, income, marital status, race, or anything else that makes us different from one another. I also feel intimidated by a variety of degrees and professions. Too educated here, not educated enough there. It confirms I don’t belong anywhere.
Oh, and I’m not really a drinker, so those social clubs and organizations I’m a part of can be a bit awkward too. In fact, several years ago, I attended an event where I declined wine. After a while, the host finally asked me, “Laurel, when are going to share your big news?” I’ll sum up the rest of the story: Because I was not drinking, it was assumed I was expecting. Open mouth, insert foot. At another event, I brought sparking juice to share, in particular given the number of preggo gals that were attending, and overheard some ladies making fun of it. Ouch. I am “okay” being around others that are partaking in some spirits (in moderation without becoming intoxicated), but apparently some people don’t understand why others abstain.But, you see, I really am not like anyone else. Sure, there are people who have rarely had alcohol. There are people without children after years of marriage, or who are blessed with a baby after many years. There are certainly women with doctoral degrees. But, in my personal experience, it’s pretty rare to find all those things in one person…and I’ve never found another person in the same place of life at the same time as me. But you want to know the truth? You aren’t like anyone else either. And you don’t have to be a part of the “in” crowd. You don’t have to be a people pleaser. You don’t have to “go along to get along.” You don’t have to scratch someone’s back so they will scratch yours. How many of these true, but tired, sayings are needed in order to get the point across? I hope what I’ve shared is enough. After all, I don’t fit in with the writer crowd either. Despite 2017 being the year my first trade book was published, I don’t have eloquent expressions ever ready. But I really want it to sink in: You don’t have to fit in.
You can still have fulfilling friendships and caring community without being just like those you spend time with (in real life or on social media). Your relationships don’t have to be solely based on how much you have in common with someone. You don’t have to fear that others won’t like you just because you’re unique, or that they’ll drop you when they see the real you. I have found solace in other new moms, regardless of their age. Sought out wisdom from my more seasoned mom friends. Learned from those that have different education and occupations from me. Enjoyed parties while sipping that sparkling grape juice, darn it. I didn’t fit in…and everything turned out just fine.
I think we would all fare better if we stopped trying to fit in, and just started being ourselves. Accepting that no one is going to agree with us 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Accepting that we aren’t going to agree with anyone else 100% of the time, and that’s okay too. I don’t have to fit in neatly with any one group of Christians or women or conservatives or authors or professors or counselors or church groups…or any other group of people I’m associated with. I can just be me. With my own beliefs, opinions, and values. You can just be you too. And we can get along just fine.
I would love for 2018 to be the year where we became less concerned about what others think, and more concerned about what God thinks. The year we recognize we weren’t made for this world, and we’ll never fit in – no matter how hard we try or how much pressure we receive. The year we accept this reality; even embrace it. Here’s to 2018: The year of not fitting in.