You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, or so the saying goes. But what if you can’t find a square hole? As a social species, we humans are constantly looking for a sense of belonging. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need for love and belongingness supersedes the need for accomplishment, validation or creative expression. I want to find somewhere I belong.
But what I’m finding is that I’ve never really fit in anywhere. My career choice is unconventional; family and friends have questioned my decisions all my life. Perhaps as a result, in looking for somewhere I belong, I always feel like an outsider. Let me explain.
Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
Remember when Aaliyah once told us so?
I don’t really identify as a millennial, as I’m right at the upper age limit to be included in that cohort. When I read articles about how millennials are ruining everything, I apt to shake my head at “kids these days” rather than get on the defensive. At the same time, I’m too young to identify as generation X. As much as I enjoyed watching Friends, Chandler Bing and Ross Geller aren’t really like me either. And I hate the term Xennial, though it’s probably the most accurate.
I’m a Nerd. So Am I.
I’m not nerdy enough for the “real” nerds, so to speak; my only knowledge of X-Men comes from the 90s Fox cartoon. Whenever there are comic book references in the MCU, I turn to my more knowledgeable friends for their comic book expertise. They’ll tell me about these elaborate backstories and why a certain mention is so significant. Google and Wikipedia help too, of course.
Growing up, though, I was also always too nerdy, too geeky to hang out with the “cool” kids. I was always the geeky kid who was good at math and actually did his homework. I’m over it now (I think).
When He Became a Parent
After my daughter was born and I started to get more involved in the “parenting” community online, I befriended a number of local “mommy bloggers.” Some of them embrace the term and others abhor it. And while we can connect on a number of parenting issues, there are just some areas where I don’t belong.
This extends beyond strictly biological concerns too. Stereotypes are stereotypes, of course, but whereas they may swoon over “cute outfits” and Pinterest-worthy flatlays, I’m not nearly as interested. To be one of the few dad bloggers among a massive cohort of mommy bloggers is just like being only dad at story time. Be the change and shift the conversation and all that, right?
As the Owlturd comic so cleverly expressed a couple years ago, “We box ourselves in because we’re afraid of being different. But it’s okay to be unique.” It’s hip to be square.
The sound business advice is that you should focus on your niche. If you want to have a successful Instagram account, you should focus on just one thing and stick to the same visual style. But I can’t do that. My Instagram is a reflection of my life.
This is probably why Beyond the Rhetoric has become what it has become. From a business standpoint, it would be a better idea if I narrowed down my niche. This is a dad blog, or this is a food blog, or this is a home business blog. Or a self-help blog. Or a travel blog. But it’s some combination of all of these, because BTR is a representation of who I am right now.
And who I am today is different from who I was more than 10 years ago when I first started this thing. And I’ll probably be different 10 years from now (and so will this blog… if it’s still around). When people ask me what my site is about, I don’t have a standard elevator pitch.
To some extent, sure, I still want to find somewhere I belong. It’s a basic human need. At the same time, I also have to recognize that I’ll never really be like everyone else, nor should I be. Instead, certain aspects of my identity will gel with certain aspects of other people, and parts of me will “belong” in some groups but not others.
Even if I don’t fully fit in with this group or that, I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in these thoughts. I’m unique. Just like everybody else. Perhaps this old Linkin Park track said it best:
When this began,
I had nothing to say
And I’d get lost in the nothingness inside of me
(I was confused)
And I let it all out to find that I’m not the only person with these things in mind