Just one of the guys.
That's all I ever wanted.
To just fit in.
To just have my peeps.
To just be...one of the guys.
It's tough that first time.
You were surprised how good you were getting along with your buddy from school. You guys had lots of fun together. You liked his new video games. He liked your old comics. You both LOVED G.I. JOE!
It was a new feeling. There was a coziness, a bond. Like family, only better.
You chose him. He chose you. You weren't just born into this relationship.
Shared lunches. Sleep overs. Secret notes.
And it's like you know nothing could ever upset this fated (best) friendship (forever).
When one day...
You walk up to your bosom buddy in the school yard, who is chatting away in a little group.
As you mosey into the circle, you look around and feel your stomach churn as your "upside down" flips to a frown.
There were stink eyes all around, and they all seemed to be aimed at you.
The worse part is, your BFF, your partner in crime, your safety net, he was giving it rougher than anyone else in the circle.
Apparently, misunderstanding, gossip, and judgment have no minimum age requirement.
That's the moment you began to grow up. That's when you started to understand how the world works.
You don't just have friends. You won't be safe anymore. You can't trust anyone.
BUT you do have to fit in. You will have to seem confident. You must appear to need no one.
I still don't really understand why I was slighted by my friend back on that school yard blacktop. We still went on being friends. But things were different after that.
I started to mold my exoskeleton in the form of what I thought would better "fit in" with other groups, especially guys.
Sense of humor? Check.
Chip on my shoulder? Check.
Say what others want to hear? Check.
Try to be (or at least appear) "average" in as many ways as possible? Triple Check!
So, I shaped myself into the ultimate average of all the other guys I studied for the next 25 years. I was a good student. I knew how to let others know that I was on THEIR team. My plan to keep fitting in seemed like it was working just as planned.
Only, it wasn't actually working.
I was such a good student in getting to know about others that I eventually had to face the growing feeling that something was really off. Sure, I had plenty of friends. I was a part of many different groups, sports teams, video gamers, church goers.
I could hang with lots of different groups of friends, and easily make new ones.
But why did it feel like I wasn't fulfilled? Like I hadn't achieved my goal? Like I was everybody's friend but that nobody truly understood me.
Why did I still feel alone?
Why, after decades of working on this version of myself, did I still feel like I did that cool winter morning on the blacktop of my elementary school?
Why did I still not fit in?
Well, it turned out that I was finally ready to hear that still, quiet voice inside. The one that was bringing to my attention that it was time to grow up again.
But this time, it wasn't about fitting in.
This time, it was about being myself. The deepest, truest self that I was long before I got "corrected" on that school yard. The one that was more concerned with being like me, and less concerned with getting others to like me.
This time, it was about being. And this time, it was about belonging.
I've been researching for so long how other guys think, what other guys like, and what constitutes the average of all these categories for guys so that I could put that data to good use and be a part of this group of average Joe's. But now, after hitting a wall with this strategy, and over a decade of self reflection and researching personal development and improvement, I've come to a conclusion: the "average Joe" does not exist.
This idea has been staring me in the face for a while.
There is fantastic work and writings on shame, vulnerability and belonging by others, especially by folks like Brené Brown. One of the most impactful ideas that she articulated, and that matched my experience, was that when you try to just fit in, you're screwing yourself. Because you're trying to fit into a mold that is not your own. So you're not being you!
However, when you focus on just allowing yourself to be truthful with who you are (ie- being honest about the food and hobbies you like or rocking that mullet that you were born to wear on your head), you eventually attract your tribe. The folks that naturally connect to you.
This all immediately made sense to me when I heard/read this. Of course you should be yourself. Otherwise, it's like you're taking crazy pills!
But wait, there's more...
There's this cultural shift that is happening right now. It used to be cooler to be like everyone else. Now, things have flipped. It's now way cooler to be unique. To be an individual. A snowflake with your own special pattern. At least, this is what is being spoken. And so much so, that the word "authentic" can cause a vomit-y sensation in one's mouth.
But the good thing is that it has brought to light this one fact: it's cool to be a NERD.
You can openly nerd out on anything now, and it's all good. From cooking reality TV shows, to mating habits of yellow anacondas, to Battlestar Galactica (reboot), there is a community out there for you to be a part of. And even if there isn't, you could easily start one. It's never been a better time to express yourself as you truly are.
That's really why I've started creating content here. This is an itch that I needed to scratch. And I'll bet I'm not the only one who keeps needing to reach for my back scratcher.
Because we're in a new era. We're increasingly understanding as a global community.
I am a nerd.
You are a nerd.
Every single person in the world is a FREAKIN' NERD.
But, yeah. Not everyone is on board yet. Lots of folks are still in denial. I mean, I've understood this for a while, and somehow I was only just recently able to have clarity about this. So, this is also why I'm here. I'm working out my own nerd-ness in front of everyone. It is sometimes embarassing. It is sometimes hard. And it is always healing.
I've got the disease, too. I'm uncovering the lies that hold me back, that keep me in my old man-meat suit. And it stinks (as man-meat often does).
This is not to say that I've never had decent friendships or other relationships. It just means that I'm really seeing things in a new way. And I'm excited. And nervous. And stoked. And uncertain. And I love that.
I look forward to the new relationships (with old or new friends) that the future holds for me.
Like where I like his new comics. Where he likes my old video games. And where we both say SCREW THE "AVERAGE JOE", and chant our new song of brotherly love:
NERDS, NERDS, NERDS!
I've got plenty of my own nerd-tastic to eventually dive into, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that I know that you know...that you don't fit in. I'm not just one of the guys. And neither are you. Cause you're a freaking nerd.
Stop fighting it.
Part that hair. Tuck that shirt in. Don your glasses. (metaphorically speaking, of course)
Cause I'm a nerd.
And you're a nerd.
And everyone else in the whole stinking world is, that's right...a nerd.
So, quit trying to fit in. Let yourself just be. And someday, that be will turn into a be-long.
Hang in there, it gets better.
grace, peace & love