Who am I? Where do I belong?




I've been doing a lot of thinking this spring about my life, my career and my identity. It is probably because my 55th birthday looms large this summer,  but it is also because I've been stuck in a rut for some time. 


I am a vagabond at heart. I have lived in a lot of places and traveled to even more. If I were rich, I'd probably live in an RV or on a houseboat and move every two months or so, never going to the same place twice. 

So when I realized in January that I had been living in the same apartment for 5 years, I also figured out that is the longest place I've stayed put in my adult life. My average in number of places per year is over 2. Yep, I've averaged 2 places a year for 38 years of adult living and that includes several places where I lived for more than 2 years. My record number of moves in one year was 6 times (not counting the year I live with hubby and brother in an RV). 


We moved on May 1 to a much better place--mostly accessible place. It is more modern and healthier for us and only slightly more expensive. If I am stuck here for 5 years, I probably will not mind as much. The last place was, uh, let's just say substandard. I find myself these days feeling grateful for odd things like electricity, running water, garbage disposal, dishwasher, washer/dryer, air conditioning, closets, storage space and ventilation.  We had a couple of those things at the old place but none in good working order. 


It is funny how one can adapt to substandard conditions if one feels they must. I really didn't realize until after the move how much I was sacrificing. I guess the short of it is, the past 5 years have been rough. Moving has given me hope.


But I am still feeling a bit out of joint, and surprisingly, lonely, disconnected. I've always been somebody who can't have a party because none of my friends would get along with each other. I have always been an intersection rather than a team player, meaning that I know people from a number of cliques, but was never part of any particular clique. 


I was too white-trash for the intellectuals and too smart for my neighborhood, too tom-boy for the geeks and too geeky for the athletes. I was too "free-spirited" for the religious and too "metaphysical" for the atheists. Too capitalist for the liberals and too anti-corporate for the conservatives. I'm not sure if this means I'm an individual or if my dad was right and I'm just "contrary."


Lately, I've been feeling this feeling again. I feel too disabled for fat folks and too fat for disabled groups. I have mobility issues, but I'm able to walk for a bit and most of my chronic disabilities are invisible. I am in pain almost all the time. But I don't show it often, except to my husband. I have become stoic in many ways when I'm out and about. If I can't achieve that stoicism, I stay home.

It doesn't help that I really haven't had a best friend for many years now, except, of course, my husband. But that is a lot to put on him. I used to have a small circle of girlfriends who I could turn to and who would turn to me. I don't know why this happened. One theory is age. Another is the Internet, which is really (sadly) my primary way of meeting people with any depth. Living with pain means withdrawing socially, so maybe it just that simple. In fact, I chose to write this on Ample Ramblings instead of Fattypatties because my pain is probably defining me more than anything else these days. Or, it may be that it is what constrains me most.

It would be nice, however, to connect. I have been reaching out to a few women for whom I have respect in an effort to move past the loneliness and find some friendship. It has helped.


As a sociologist, I study groups and group dynamics, but I also study identity and how groups shape our sense of ourselves. Not belonging any where specific has shaped who I am and how I think about myself. I know this, but it brings me little comfort to tell you the truth.


Here's what I know in this moment. I am (an interesting phrase when you think about it) many things that have social meanings: female, white, "late-boomer," fat, person with disability, chronically ill, teacher, writer, artist, working-class, intellectual, Ph.D. and so forth. But I am also what I enjoy, what I desire, what I envision, what I create. 

So as I contemplate the remainder of my life during the next 7 weeks leading up to my 55th birthday, I hope to be making some changes, maybe even some you would call drastic. 


I remember Patrick Swayze once said in an interview that the cure for burnout was "a calculated risk." I plan to risk being myself a little more often and let's see where that takes me. I really want to be more than my pain.


Stay tuned!





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