A Blacksheep of Blacksheep???

I guess I'm not really your typical blacksheep of the family. Everyone in my family still speaks to me and I'm not looked down on (at least not openly or obviously) or outcast. But I still have a very distinct feeling of "not belonging". This is a feeling I've had for as long as I can remember. I've never felt a real part of any group I've ever joined or been associated with. I never felt I was a vital part of any group of friends I hung out with, from the kids I went to grade school with, through high school, church, even college. The first time I felt "connected" was when I moved out to Denver, and I still consider the Colorado Rockies my spiritual home. But this page isn't about feeling connected, it's about feeling like the outsider...the blacksheep of the crowd.

I've discovered that most "blacksheep" are very independent and free- thinking people. They're not concerned with fitting in or what other people may think. I tend to think the feeling of "disconnectedness" (did I just make up a word?) is not so much from being a blacksheep as from trying to be a whitesheep. The feeling, for me at least, abated and then disappeared when I followed my heart. The more I tried to please others, the more disconnected I felt. This isn't to say you should go out of your way to displease others in order to feel connected. Rather that you need to listen to your own heart. To follow those gut instincts as to where you belong.

My first awareness of being an outsider was when I was in kindergarten. As spring approached, my best friend and I began discussing the beginning of all day school in first grade and wondering if we'd have the same teachers. When I found out we'd be attending different schools, I asked her to come to the school I'd be attending, a Catholic school. She apparently spoke to her mother about it because she told me she wasn't allowed to go to my school because she wasn't Catholic. I didn't understand why that would make any difference and asked my mother about it. I'm not sure exactly what she said, but the impression I remember coming away with was that because my friend wasn't Catholic, she and anyone else who wasn't Catholic would not get to heaven when they died. That made no sense to me, and I realize today that the five year old child misunderstood what my mother said. However, the fact that I began to doubt the religious tenets of the Catholic faith at such an early age was destined to create a feeling of disconnectedness at a Catholic school because I never believed anything after that simply because someone in the church said it was so.

While I could probably still name almost all of my classmates from the Catholic school, I never really had what you could consider a best friend in school. Because there were seven kids in my family, we were only allowed to have a birthday party where we invited kids from school every five years. I remember wondering when I sent out invititations for my tenth birthday if anyone would even come. I'm sure part of the problem, if it really was a problem, was that I didn't share many of the same interests as most of the girls in my class. I wasn't really into Barbie or even into boys. I wasn't really into sports either. Nor was I one of those supersmart, head of the class types. I fit a little into each category, but not enough to feel part of any particular group.

This feeling of being an outsider was emphasized even more when, in the middle of seventh grade, my family suddenly moved. I was dumped into the public school system where the rules were completely different. Don't get me wrong-- it wasn't like going from Beverly Hills 90210 to Dangerous Minds. There were more people in the seventh grade than in the entire eight grades at the Catholic School. Whereas I'd know the name of everyone of my classmates before, now I knew none. I'm sure there are kids that went to school with me whose names I never knew. My clothes were seriously out of style and I was ridiculed more than once for the way I dressed, even though such "dressy" clothes were the bare minimum at my old school. It took me four years to recover from the ribbings to where I could wear a skirt or dress to school again. There was no feeling of trust in my new school. I could leave my lunch money laying in plain sight on my desk in the Catholic school and if we left the room, it would still be there when I came back. I forgot my purse in English class in the public school and when I went back less than five minutes later, someone had already stolen my used lip gloss. Most of the kids in the middle school had been going to school together for at least the last year and a half, many of them since kindergarten. The cliques and friendships were already formed and I wasn't included. Later, in high school, I joined the marching band, the softball team, was in the honor society and other small groups, but I still never felt completely part of any of them.

The feeling of being an outsider wasn't just at school either. Even at home I felt like the outsider. Perhaps some of this was due to the fact that I was the oldest of seven. For almost as long as I can remember, I was the babysitter when my parents went out. Maybe because I was "the disciplinarian" figure when my parents weren't home, my siblings had a hard time seeing me as a sister. I have a first cousin who is one month younger than I am and I always envied how easily she fit into whatever it was she joined. She moved one summer in high school and the very next year, she was the drum majorette at her school. My siblings were much closer to my cousins, even second and third cousins, than I ever was. I left home at 17 to go to college and was pretty much on my own after that. When my youngest sister came out to see my oldest son when he was three months old, I had to ask my mom who she was. I'd have walked past her in a mall. (There are 12 years between us.) My siblings always had friends calling to talk to them, people inviting them to their house or to parties. I don't think I had five people from my graduating class come to my graduation party.

I do know I had very low self-esteem for many years of my life. Whether the low-self esteem was a result of feeling "rejected" or whether the feeling of being an outside (and thus "rejected") was because I didn't have the self-esteem to seek out friends and associations is debatable. I tend to think the low-self esteem was the result of being an outsider because although I am still an outsider, I no longer have the low self-esteem and I am part of many groups now, yet still feel like the "outsider."

I've come to realize that this feeling is simply due to the fact that I AM an outsider. I don't look at things the way most other people look at them. I tend to question everything, seeking to know why it is the way it is and how it can be changed to make it easier or fairer. I don't follow a mainstream religion, finding my own spirituality gives me a much closer and more personal relationship with the Divine. While it took many long years of deep self-introspection, I'm accepted and I'm actually glad that I'm an outsider. A blacksheep. There are so many attributes of society today that I want no part of. I don't agree that this world has to be "everyone look out for number one". In fact, I think this is the farthest one can get from the way it should be. I like to think I give others the right to follow their own hearts, even those who seek to take that same right from me. (That's not to say I'm not going to do what I can to stop them from taking that right from me and others who don't agree with them.) I don't believe that more is better: that I have to have a new car every year, that my house needs to be designer or big enough for half the US Marine Corps. I know that if I won the lottery, I would still work and not buy myself a thousand new toys. And I do believe that we can have world peace if we're all willing to work at it.

So if you feel like you're a blacksheep, an outsider, take pride in what you do and what you believe. (As long as what you believe doesn't cause someone else harm or violate their belief to do the same.) Rejoice in your uniqueness and don't force yourself to fit into someone else's mold. Be true to who you are, what you believe, your own soul. That is the only way to lose that feeling of being an outsider because you realize that the only thing "outside" about you is when you're trying to be what someone else wants you to be.

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