Your Mama Is An Outsider

It finally hit me. I am an outsider. I’ve felt different more times than I care to count but until recently I’ve not given it much thought or embraced the notion of being an outsider.

When I was born, my older twin siblings didn’t want much to do with me as they had each other. I tried desperately to make them play with me but mostly, I was left to play by myself.

When I went to middle and high school, I was one of two black students in a predominantly white private school in the South. There were countless moments of feeling uncomfortable and singled out simply because I was different.

When I went to college and pledged a sorority, I was surprisingly blackballed by a childhood friend. After the shock and humiliation wore off, I found myself on the outside of a group of people I once considered friends.

When I got pregnant with my first child, I was not married. The pregnancy didn’t come as a shock to my now husband and I as we were in love and excited about our future together. To this day, however, there are still a handful of people who go out of their way to make their disapproval known.

When I found a really gratifying job, I was singled out and bullied because I became aware of harassment challenges that leadership wanted to bury. Overnight the environment went from friendly and supportive to isolating and hostile.

I could go on but you get the gist. I am an outsider somewhat because of experience and circumstance, but also because of my personality. Like a lot of outsiders, I spent far too long thinking that being an outsider was negative, or something I deserved because I wasn’t worthy or I did something wrong. Outsiders don’t typically feel included because we are different. We tend to live on the periphery and we are introverted sometimes even though this is not altogether by choice. We are often singled out, ostracized or bullied, and we often march to the beat of our own drum as a result.

This is the blessing of being an outsider–we learn to love ourselves despite everything and we typically have a lot of compassion for others. We’ve learned, firsthand, that being included isn’t always a good thing as it often calls for compromising values, hurting others, and not thinking clearly for oneself.

Me and G....outside.

If you do find yourself often feeling like an outsider, fight the temptation to become even more of an outsider. It’s easy to think that you are deserving of being an outsider and all the experiences and treatment that may accompany feeling that way. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s something bigger and not personal. Sometimes you won’t understand it, sometimes you will feel forever changed by it, and sometimes life just isn’t fair despite your intention, heart, and efforts.

I tell you all of this because everyone feels like an outsider to some degree. It’s not a bad thing but it’s not always pleasant. I could tell you that there are plenty of famous people who have embraced being an outsider—Angelina Jolie, J.K Rowling, Steve Jobs and a slew of others—but that won’t make it any easier. It does not always feel good to be an outsider.

When it does happen, the most important things to remember are:

  • Always pick yourself up and just focus on moving forward. It may be confusing and hurtful but in time you will be stronger and know much more about what’s important in life.
  • Please don’t be afraid of being an outsider. Everyone feels this way at one time or another. Please trust that it’s the universe protecting you in many ways and encouraging you to be your own best friend above all else.
  • Being an outsider makes you keenly aware of how you treat people. The smallest of kind gestures is important as every single interaction with someone can have lasting implications. It’s important to try to leave people feeling better than you found them.

What I Hide on Social Media

I have a fabulous life. No really, I do. I have two amazing children, a loving husband and family, good friends, and many interests. I get to travel to amazing places, meet amazing people, and do amazing things. Mostly, I get to raise my children and revel in the routine of going outside to play with our neighbors, shuttle from activity to activity, volunteer at school, manage our home and cook dinner. I get to do these things and so much more. It is nonstop work but it is a blessing. If you’re not convinced of just how blessed I am, check my social media feed. It’s a reflection of my life and proof positive that everything is wonderful. Or is it?

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This is me….way too much.

A few weeks ago I posted a short video of my son enjoying some grape jam at breakfast, a picture of my friend’s “Sexy Lips” necklace and a reference to one of my favorite poems, Desiderata, in honor of national poetry month. In weeks past I’ve posted pictures of date nights, spring break, sporting events and more. See? Wonderful, right?

The Things We Tell Our Children

Last school year my daughter, Gigi, came home distraught one afternoon—she had her first misunderstanding with a good friend. It was drama filled and in her young mind, she didn’t think they would ever be friends again. She didn’t have perspective, just hurt feelings and sadness. Like most young children, all was better within a day or so. Gigi worked things out with her friend and that began our journey teaching Friendship 101.

After a recent disagreement with a neighborhood friend, I paused while giving Gigi my normal advice. “Friends go through things from time to time,” I told her. “If you care enough about the friendship, you will find a way to work it out. All you have to do is try to communicate as best you can and that goes both ways. You have to listen as well and it will all work out.” And that’s when I heard myself.

How Bruno Mars Helped Me Become a Better Parent

Last night my daughter and I went to the Bruno Mars concert in Los Angeles–it was everything! That young man is truly talented and reminds me so much of Michael Jackson around the time he moonwalked during the Motown 25th televised show. Bruno performs with the same intensity and passion. Aside from having great music, a good voice with range, and backup dancers and singers that take you back to the boy-band era, Bruno Mars feels the music and makes people enjoy it in a way that’s truly special, like mid-career Michael Jackson.

 

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Bruno Mars XXIV Karat Magic Los Angeles Concert, November 2017

It’s probably important to note that Michael Jackson was my childhood idol. From “Blame it on the Boogie” and “Everybody” to “Lovely One” and “Beat It,” I knew almost every lyric, to every song, after first discovering him through the Off the Wall album (his best album, period). The childhood nostalgia came flooding back to me last night as Michael was my first concert and here I was with my daughter, at her first concert. It was incredibly special.

Naturally today, we are paying for it. My daughter was up and out last night much later than I’d anticipated and both of us are slower than normal. But it was worth it and a tremendous reminder to me to bend the rules occasionally and just enjoy my kids. And not just through big firsts like last night, but each day. Chucking the responsibility of managing the family schedule and making sure everyone does what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, is necessary from time to time. I’m so happy I overlooked my daughter’s bedtime and initial concerns that the content would be inappropriate (an aside, there was a lot of cursing but if you’ve heard the album, you know as much and my kids have indeed heard the album. Judge me if you want but they now know which words they can use, and which they can’t). I’m glad that I let her have this fun experience. It’s one she (and I) will cherish for the rest of our lives.

This One Thing Could Save Your Child’s Life

There’s nothing like a good party in the car with the kids. Cue the music, roll the windows down, and sing and dance the traffic away. It’s fun and easy to make shuttling around a memorable party in the car but it can quickly go wrong. Odds are, something’s wrong with how your child’s car seat is installed or being used. Maybe you don’t have him correctly harnessed in it, you let him keep his jacket on underneath the belt, or perhaps you let him put on his own seat belt, straps twisted and all, because, well, you know, he’s a big boy now.

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It happens every day. I recently watched a car jam session I’d taped from the passenger side of our car while my husband drove us around. The kids were singing their hearts out and then I noticed, the seat belt straps on my son’s Graco harness booster seat were way too low to be effective in a car accident. There he was, singing at the top of his lungs and the harness that connects the straps were down, below his chest, closer to his waist! This is how it happens. This is how children end up severely hurt in car accidents. I’d looked at him several times during that car dance party and didn’t notice the straps until watching him on the video, days later. How did I miss this? How can I tune back in, be in the moment of checking and re-checking these belts, when so many times I’m just on autopilot? Should I leave myself a sticky note in the car to remind myself to check his car seat?