I have never fit in.
Attending British schools in Hong Kong, I was never quite British enough. During summer vacations in the U.S., I was never quite American enough. Once I got to boarding school in California, I quickly shed my thick British accent, wanting to fit in. But then I found myself feeling more Asian than anything else given we were in the minority there.
Over lunch with the Bootcamp ladies the other day, we talked about how "home" has taken on a whole new meaning for them as they have created lasting friendships and bonds, like the one we have here in Korea as opposed to back home. They continued to share how neat it was watching their kids grow up as Third Culture Kids (TCK), a term I kind of wish was around when I was growing up, or maybe not because it would have confused me even more?
I love Korea's cafe culture. There is nothing I love better than whiling my afternoon away over a beautifully curated matcha latte--you know the Instagram-worthy kind. Yet I don't drink coffee. In my late 20s and throughout my 30s, I stopped drinking alcohol, because my body just couldn't handle it, but I would go with friends to bars to dance/socialize and have a good time. *wink*
I always longed to be able to say, "I'm from ______." Just a one word answer. I looked up to people who had grown up on the same street, knew all of their neighbors, frequented the same establishments akin to The Brady Brunch. In the same way people looked up to child prodigies and math geniuses.
I never really seriously dated in my 20s. I mean, I tried, but nothing really stuck (no errr pun intended?!). In my 30s, before meeting Edgar, I was always that one friend who showed up to house parties alone; the friend that people would say, "Ohhh, you'll find someone soon...you're so nice and such a catch" to. My mom thought I was a lesbian.
I think I spent a good chunk of my life trying to just fit in.
When I first started my job as a professor at Yonsei University, I wore suits, high heels, and pretended to be organized. I wanted to emulate the few other female professors that were around. Truth be told, I was far from it: I would often leave rosters and other important papers behind in class or on my desk, I would show up to class with toilet paper remnants on my face, and I would sometimes wing activities when other activities didn't quite go the way I expected them to.
After my first semester, there was a change.
It was a tipping point: I started feeling super accepted by my students without really having to try to be someone else. It was when I stopped trying to be someone I wasn't, (which let's admit, is super tiring) that my students were less stressed, because I was less stressed. I began teaching in my quirky style. I began wearing more comfortable clothes and shoes. I began bringing a lot more creativity to whatever we were learning.
I could breathe again.
You know how you kind of identify yourself with your work big time? Well, that was me. After I left Yonsei, and took 2017 off, I realized it wasn't about fitting in with others. I mean, heck, I was like that weird-shaped peg trying to squeeze myself into a square hole...over and over again. And each time thinking: why doesn't this work? Why isn't this easy? What?!
I realized it was more about fitting in WITH yourself. Accepting yourself for the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else in between.
Then something even more magical started happening.
The more work I did on myself whether it was through my life coaching work, or my research/work on happiness, the more I began fitting in WITH myself. Then, I started meeting these awesome coaches who had done similar work on themselves and WITH themselves. First, at the World Happiness Summit in March in Miami, and then more recently here in Korea.
Over Vietnamese lunch yesterday under a perfect fall sun, one of my new friends remarked, "Gosh, I just wanted to tell you guys, this is the first time I can say I have found my tribe."
The fact that she was able to say that, having known us less than a month, spoke to just how much she not only fit in WITH herself (and all of the work she had done on herself WITH herself), but that she had mirrored that very same work that we had done as well--back to us.
And just like that, we were 3 weird-shaped pegs not fitting into square-shaped society, but helping each other STAND OUT more.