While I grew up in the Midwest I never really felt like I belonged there.
I could write volumes as to why that might be. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter. From early in adolescents I always knew I would leave my native Ohio and only occasionally look back. I longed for what I perceived to be life in the big city. A big part of that longing was career aspiration. I wanted to go to New York City and leave my mark on the Great White Way. I was going to sing and dance on Broadway, and then make my way into the film versions of the same shows. I would have a huge mantle to hold all of my awards. In the privacy of my bedroom I practiced my acceptance speeches and bowed and smiled for the imaginary cameras. I was a legend in my own mind.
I embodied at least a part of those dreams. I did indeed move to New York City. I had a modicum of success in the entertainment industry. I never won an award and so never gave a speech. I spent a fair amount of time on camera, but always in the background to a celebrity’s foreground. And yet I felt like I belonged there. I felt like I had landed exactly where I was meant to be.
Just not for the reason I thought.
I had just enough talent to get me to where something different and ever more important was meant to happen in and for me. While I thought New York would hold and offer me the keys to this most fabulous city the key it held was a radically different way of being that was far transcendent to any role I would ever play.
While in terms of career success I never truly belonged in New York I learned in New York how to belong within myself. I began to learn that belonging is an internal choice that is integral to our spiritual awakening. While I never could have imagined leaving NYC circumstances did indeed bid me to say farewell. Twenty-four years ago I was moved to a place I never wanted to live and never thought I would belong. For what I perceived at the time was only for the love of another I moved to south Florida where I have been ever since. There is still a part of me that feels like I don’t and never will belong here.
That is true at only the surface level.
At a deeper level that sense of not belonging has been a context for a deepening and a ripening of what I am to become. I have chosen to place preference behind purpose. I have decided repeatedly that service and being the way is more important than geography and getting my way. I decide daily that I belong where I say I belong. And deciding on where I belong is intimately linked to why I am where I am.
And so just as the Broadway community never invited me into their circle of belonging, I have been cast out of other circles both in and out of Florida. Just as I have been cast out I have often made the choice that there are clubs and cliques in which I do not by virtue of values want to belong.
There are groups who demand compliance and fitting in as requisites of belonging.
No, thank you.
Fitting in is not belonging. I have never been clearer about that.
Belonging requires clear, firm, and unbreakable boundaries. Those I have developed in Florida. Belonging requires a strong and unmovable sense of self. Again; thank you Florida. It demands clear priorities. Check. It builds and solidifies discernment and the ability to respond from a place of autonomy and strength. You don’t get that on stage.
I grew up in the Midwest and I really don’t belong there.
I was reborn in New York City, and I no longer belong there either.
I am a longtime resident of south Florida and I rise daily to choose to belong here.
I belong here not because of climate or longevity or preference or familiarity.
I belong here simply because I am here. I belong here because I belong in here. And so
wherever I am I belong.
Wherever I am I choose my sense of belonging. No awards, bright lights, or big cities needed.
Being where I do not prefer to be is what taught me where I truly belong.
Right in here.