In the past few weeks, I have had several opportunities to be involved in a variety of group settings. In each of them, I would consider myself to be a member of the group.
But in each one, I found myself inadvertently relegated to the outside. Conversations were going on that I could not effectively participate in. Everyone had common frames of reference that I did not share.
Discussions of improv referencing books that I have not read, or theories that I have not studied.
Discussions of sports that I do not watch.
Discussions of get-togethers that I did not attend — either because I could not, or because I didn’t know of them until well after they had happened.
Discussions of shared memories that I had not been a part of.
Discussions of people that everyone knew but me.
Discussions of plans that I was not part of, and could not join even if invited.
It was like I had been plunged back into junior high and friends were talking about music I hadn’t heard or movies I wasn’t allowed to watch.
Even then, I didn’t care that I hadn’t heard the music or seen the movies; I cared that I couldn’t figure out how to turn the conversation into one that I could be a part of. I cared that I was excluded without malice. (It’s easier to be excluded with malice, because then you know where you stand.)
I cared then, and I care now, because it reminds me that I don’t really know how to cultivate the types of friendships that I wish I had.
I’m not about to change who I am just to “fit in.” I’ve never been that guy, and I won’t be that guy now. But sometimes I do get really tired of being a stranger to my friends.