I recently bought a pair of brown ankle boots (I’m not sure if that’s their actual fashion term) on sale at DSW. I call them my “women’s event” shoes because I got them specifically to wear when I perform at women’s events. Most of the time I wear them for about ¾ of the evening and then switch back to my Keds. (So if you come to a women’s event where I’m performing and notice I’m couple inches shorter by the end of the evening, you’re not hallucinating.)
There’s not a lot about my life that fits the mold. I’m 32, single, childless, and my time is split between teaching music in a classroom and traveling the country with an accordion and ukulele telling jokes. I’ve worn socks with sandals more recently than I care to admit. I lose 85% of jewelry within two weeks of getting it, so mostly I don’t buy it. I can’t remember my Pinterest password and the last time I tried to do my hair fancy I looked like I was entering a Shirley Temple look-alike contest.
I know my life lacks certain milestones and commonalities with many other women, so I thought if I possessed the right pair of footwear I’d be more readily accepted by my peers and audiences. (Why not try to get the right clothes or accessories? Why the focus on shoes? Glad you asked. Most audience’s eyes tend to fall foot-level with the performer. For better or worse, it’s what I notice about people on stage, so I assume they notice it about me.)
I never thought I’d still be worried about fitting in this far into adulthood. As a teenager I believed there was a point in my life—probably shortly after college– where I’d automatically know my place, have my tribe of people, and live the rest of my life laughing at my days of trying to belong. I thought the rat race to find the right table would end.
Oh how naïve I was.
And, apparently, I’m not alone in my struggle. I’ve talked with numerous other women who are discouraged because they still feel like they’re in high school. No matter how old we get, in our hearts we’re still insecure freshman hoping we’ll get invited to sit at the cool table. We spend copious amounts of time, energy, and money trying to belong in the elusive “inner circle,” when it’s simply a smoke screen.
Recently I stumbled across this verse in Philippians:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
I’d read this verse many times before, but this time I felt convicted. I’d missed countless opportunities to look to the interests of others because I was consumed only with my own interest of fitting in. What if, instead of focusing on being accepted, I put more effort into accepting other people? What if I dressed as fashionably as I knew how and then totally forgot about it so I could put that energy into seeking out and finding those who needed a friend? What if I made other people’s need to feel valued more important than my own?
If you’re struggling to find your place, I’d like to encourage you to start your own “cool table.” Make your own clique. Keep your eye out for people on the fringes. They’re there—sometimes you have to look a little harder. (Hint: They often sit in the back near the exits.) Invite people into your life that you have nothing in common with and learn from them. If you learn to see the unseen and hear the unheard, you will never be without a friend in your life.
And those are the kinds of friends who will gently tell you that wearing socks with sandals is okay at Walmart, but not at a wedding. I know that now.
Kristin Weber is a comedian, writer, and professional Chipotle eater. You can be her friend at kristinweberonline.com.