i’ve never been the kind to fit in. i’ve never been popular. i’ve never been the girl with the fancy clothes who had all the friends. that’s just never been me. i’ve been a thrift store shopper my entire life because growing up with an addicted single mother means an entirely different financial situation than most kids. and i’ve been made fun of plenty for it too. thrift store kids understand other thrift store kids but a lotta kids never stepped foot in a thrift store (their loss if you ask me…).
those kinds of interactions went something like this:
popular Abercrombie-wearing fellow school kid: i like your shirt, where’d you get it?
me (completely surprised a “popular kid” even knew i existed): oh…. uh… Salvation Army actually! on sale (proud, because saving money was a good thing…. a really, really good thing)
***think Taylor Swift on Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live or whatever kind of “eew.” short. sweet. to the point. horrifyingly embarrassing. nowadays, thrift store shopping is a somewhat “socially acceptable” thing to do – made a little cooler by Macklemore – but let me just take this opportunity to establish myself as an original thrift store and garage sale bargain hunter and price negotiator… formed out of necessity, not out of choice. although now, it’s completely by choice. first Saturday of the month, 50% off at the Goodwill, Who’s Coming With Me?!?!?!
i guess that’s where i got my initial sense of not fitting in. i just plain didn’t, and i still just plain don’t. i was always the girl with the “ew” clothes (until my situation improved dramatically thanks to some serious heroics from my dad). i was the girl with a mess waiting for her at home. i was the girl who usually smelled like smoke. i was ashamed to have friends much less invite them over or have sleepovers like most kids were doing. i was best friends with my younger cousin because at least he understood the dysfunction and i didn’t have to explain anything to him. i tried having a best friend outside of the family once. it got me yelled at because i was so desperate for a normal friendship that i was an extremely clingy friend. i wanted to do everything she wanted to do and i wanted to hang out away from my house all the damn time. i probably annoyed the living shit out of her. my bad. i didn’t mean to. i was just a young girl around the age of 8-12 trying to escape the reality of having to constantly be my own parent because the parent that was supposed to be taking care of me was more worried about consuming alcoholic substances than maintaining any sense of normalcy for me growing up.
this whole not fitting in thing has gotten me made fun of by peers, earned me some pretty good criticism from teachers, professors, and colleagues, as well as been the source of some commentary from coaches i’ll literally never forget due to the fact that the harsh words are burned into my brain as if scarred there by cattle prods.
i played soccer growing up. i had to basically beg, borrow, and steal in order for my mom to sign me up because it was so out of the budget, but i eventually convinced her to let me enroll in a recreational league. no way in hell i could convince her to let me tryout for a travel team. i played rec soccer for about five years, always feeling like i was faster, hustled harder, and was kinda just “better” than majority of the kids i played against. i always wished i could take on the challenge of travel soccer like a bunch of other kids i knew, but that was completely out of the question.
when my dad got custody of me, i was allowed to tryout for a travel team. i made the first team i tried out for, but i was cut the second year. so i tried out for another team and made it. played there for two years before changing teams again due to that organization folding. my third travel team was by far the most i ever felt like i belonged on a team my entire life by both the girls on my team as well as our coach. the only problem was, i was heading into my last two possible seasons of travel soccer before college. and i desperately wanted to play college soccer. having missed out on the luxury of playing high-level soccer since beginning to walk, this was somewhat of a far-fetched dream. i tried hard. i ran fast. i hustled. i communicated loudest on the field. i had the most passion on the team. i was the first one to practice and the last one to leave. i scratched and clawed to be on the field for as many minutes as possible….. and Holy Shit i got a couple college looks! no way in hell i was looking at being a scholarship player, but there were a lot of factors working against me in that department. like the before mentioned “not-playing-travel-soccer-since-learning-to-walk” bit.
i ultimately ended up playing DIII, but i was far from a super star. i played in 70+ games, our team was undefeated conference champions my senior year, yadda yadda, but i can honestly tell you that my main contribution was working my ass off in practice and screaming my ass off from the sidelines in games. i’ve got a lot of heart when i put my mind to something, and LOADS of passion. i could not have worked harder. i could not have screamed louder. i could not have given more of myself for my team. i was still the first to arrive, last to leave type. i truly felt like my first priority was the best interest of the team, even if it meant sitting the bench quite a bit. just to be completely honest, i hated the bench, but i got pretty brutally criticized for asking about my playing time, so i just shut up and played my role. i carry around many points of pride as well as resentment from my college soccer days, but no two memories are burned in my mind stronger than these next two….
the first happened during practice when, after our drill was explained to us and the team was asked if there were any questions, i raised my hand to ask mine. i wish i could remember what i asked, because i’d love to know if the response was actually warranted, but what i got was, “Merritt… sometimes i’m not sure if you ask questions because you legitimately don’t understand or because you’re asking just to ask. if you’re actually confused, ask one of your teammates for the answer.”
remember how i started this whole thing off by saying i never really fit in? yea…. i’ve never felt more like a gigantic asshole idiot than in that particular moment. i wanted to crawl in a hole and die. i was beyond humiliated. and i was so angry that i could allow myself to be recruited to a team by a coach that didn’t even understand me or respect me. oh, and i lied. this second memory made me feel even more like an asshole idiot:
each player had an annual coach-player, one-on-one meeting. we talked about how we thought things were going, what our weaknesses were, what our strengths were, and our overall goals moving forward on the team. this particular meeting wasn’t extremely productive, and was likely the reason my level of success in college soccer plummeted…. the opening statement to me was something along the lines of “Merritt… i’m gonna be honest. i don’t really know what to do with you. sometimes you’re the best player on the field, and sometimes you’re quite honestly the worst. i don’t know how to coach you….” just a side note…… if you ever find yourself in this situation of “not knowing how to coach” someone or interact with them or whatever….. i’m going to just advise that maybe you don’t start by telling them sometimes they’re the best and sometimes they’re the worst and you just don’t know what to do with them…… also. i would advise against pointing out the fact that they “always cry in meetings like this” because it’s just flat out not fucking helpful.
again. even on a team where i was asked to play. even in a situation where i was told i’d be an asset. i didn’t fit in. i wanted to transfer. i felt useless. i felt like an alien. i felt like an idiot. i hated a lot of things about a lot of years between the ages of 7 and 20 and this was by far the epitome of hatred. the stupid thing is i let it all mean that I was the problem.
im here to confidently say…… You Are Not The Problem. if someone doesn’t understand you or respect you, that is a THEM thing. NOT a YOU thing. and if it’s multiple someones…. there are 7 billion people in this world and your people exist even if you gotta turn over a lot of heavy rocks to find them. i promise you, they’re out there. for me, it’s been a shit ton of expensive therapy and a fucking all hands on deck search party to find people that vibrate at my frequency, but dammit, they exist. thank the Lord in Heaven.
it took me a long time to learn this lesson and sometimes i’m still an ugly crying ball of mess trying to figure out what the hell i gotta do to stop feeling like such a fucking weirdo, but my recall time of remembering my unique abilities and why they’re pretty amazing is getting shorter all the time. for example, i mind haters less and less. i’ve already been to the bottom of “why are you here…?” and “your questions are stupid. stop wasting my time. go ask your teammates if you’re actually confused and not this ‘fake confused’ i believe you are.” i’ve listened to far too many “God, you’re so weird Sarah. what the hell is wrong with you?” and the, “gross, can you sit over there? you smell really bad…” comments to count. it’s getting more and more background noise-esque and that feels like a major win. i had someone message me on Instagram and tell me to keep my “day job” instead of pursuing a music career – that felt awesome. sometimes people type in “crying laughing” faces on my livestreams, which i just assume means they’re having a baller ass time instead of making fun of me, although i’m sure sometimes it’s because they’re making fun of me. who gives a shit. their negativity is THEIR problem.
for all the times i’ve been judged on my weirdness, vocabulary, and tendencies, accused of stupidity, and harassed for my shortcomings, be them my fault or not, i’m sorta thankful i guess. they’re just huge warning signs not to buddy up with those people. they don’t get me. they don’t have to. i quite frankly don’t get them either. and focusing on why on earth they don’t want to be friends with me robs me of the time i need to focus on my purpose in life. my purpose isn’t to go around making people like me. and it’s not to go around forcing myself to like assholes, either. if we don’t run in the same crowd, that’s fine. i’ll find my people. i’ll keep running around, being my weird ass self, wearing my thrift store wardrobe, shouting conversations louder than socially acceptable in public and the tribe will form.
shit, it’s already forming – you know who you are. but i’ll tell you this – it didn’t start forming until i dug myself out of my perpetual pity party and stopped wasting my energy on people that just didn’t get me. i didn’t start attracting my crew until i gave up trying to figure out why certain people didn’t “like” me. i had to start really truly believing that God doesn’t make trash and he made me this way one thousand percent on purpose. He doesn’t do anything on accident, and i certainly am not the exception. neither are you.
so here’s to not only accepting that there are gonna be plenty of people that just don’t “get” us, but also being grateful for them because it’s the easiest way to stop wasting energy trying to build our tribes with people that just aren’t on our same party line. no square pegs in round holes here. thank you very much. on to the next. truthfully, i’d rather be either alone or with one or two like-minded humans than trying to bang my head against a wall with a circle full of people that are all sucking the energy out of me.
what about you?