I’ve always felt like an outsider. Loved, but only on the periphery as friend, colleague, cousin. I’d look at photos on social media and crave the depth of connection that seemed to represent decades long friendships. Rooted firmly in love, support, reciprocity.
I am an only child. A transient one at that. My family is close enough. But something has always felt missing, for me. My connection to loved ones is through the vessel of cousinship and occasionally, niece. These relationships are important but not as important as the bond siblings share (well emotionally healthy siblings unlike some of the siblings in my mother’s family).
I can’t share stories about the idiosyncrasies of my mother and father’s parenting style. I feel left out when my mum and younger sister and brother talk about my granddad’s strict house rules.
As the only child within a family with no other only children, I’m now an isolated adult. There’s no guarantee of inclusion in events because cousin or friend really doesn’t have the same priority or weight as sister.
I constantly feel like a trespasser in everyone else’s lives, quietly observing (yes, I have the capacity to close my mouth). While I have good friends, I feel like the obligatory friend. The one that people like but not enough to plan spectacular events for, not enough to visit, not enough to cry about if she fell ill or died suddenly (okay, maybe people will cry, but only an obligatory cry that you do when people die and you think about their poor family).
I know that social media has distorted my perception, viewing filtered images of friends #goals or seeing people post about their seemingly Brady Bunch-like family reunions.
This is the part where I acknowledge the part I’ve played in all of this. While I crave relationships like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, I retract. I don’t disclose everything (As much as it might seem so. I don’t like hugs. Some jokes annoy me. I am moody. But I think of these as defence mechanisms) I’m like a turtle shielding itself from the potential of the dangerous emotional world crushing me. I have relationships but hardly any that require physical contact so that when I’m with my friends and family, I feel like a stranger amongst them.
I try daily to reconcile these feelings and accept that I probably won’t have a Girl’s Trip to New Orleans or take a fierce Solange-inspired group photo for the gram. In the meantime, I’ll do like so……
“Try to be like a turtle – at ease in my own shell” – Bill Copeland
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