Being one of the “Cool Kids”

There is a beautifully silly show on FOX starring Christian Slater called “Breaking In.”  I have enjoyed his work ever since his movie, “Pump Up The Volume.”  So, I’ve been very excited and then disappointed when several tv projects of his over the past decade or so got started with great promise and then either were dropped mid-season or not picked up for a second season.  Most recently this occurred with “Breaking In.”

Imagine my delighted surprise to see it back on the FOX line up this month.

There’s been a major switch up though and while his character is still large and in charge, the new sheriff in town is played by Megan Mullally, and as usual, her character is completely over the top and out of the box.  However, neither of these characters are the ones that interest me.  The one who helped inspire this post is the beautiful, smart, people-pleasing British assistant.  In the grand style of Hollywood, this character has so many qualities and traits many of us wish we had a sliver of, but somehow she has this insane lack of confidence and self-assurance or seeming understanding of what she brings to the table. It’s rather ridiculous, really.

In the second episode, she is manipulated and used by her new co-workers, reminiscent of the cruelty of kids: The pretty, popular, “in” person pretends to befriend and include the outsider, gaining trust, and tricking her into falsely believing she has miraculously been transported into the strata of the “cool kids.”  This is actually a phrase used in the episode.

This same theme is continually popping up in a lot of shows these days: GCB, Alcatraz, NCIS…yes, I have turned my brain to mush with an On Demand overdose this week while I’ve been cooped up with a sick toddler and not feeling well myself.  But that’s beside the point.

I’ve had that feeling most of my life.  We moved around a lot when I was a kid and that trend continued into my adulthood.  Roots and stability are what other people have and experience.  It’s something I’m quite unfamiliar with.  I’m sure there are others out there who know exactly what I’m talking about.  Schools, churches, and companies always seem to have a core group of people who are “in.”  What I never understood is how that happened.

I would see people who laughed together and shared their sorrows with each other: co-workers who interacted outside of work, classmates who hung out with each other for more than completing a project or doing homework, and fellow church members who socialized and whose families came together more than one day a week or for sponsored activities.  How to fit into something that’s already established?

Oh, how I’ve always wanted to be one of the “cool kids.”

Back to the assistant: Beautiful, intelligent, fashion-forward, talented, and generous.  The men in the office were awed and interested while the women were jealous and wishing they had her gifts.  Yet, there she was, crying her eyes out, hiding away, because she felt rejected and not able to fit in.  She tried so hard to please and fit in that she didn’t give herself credit or value for what she had to offer.  Sure, the others didn’t necessarily jump on the welcome wagon, but she had already expected to be excluded and rejected and set herself up for that to happen.

Makes me wonder how many times and how many ways have I done that?

The news is full of stories of bullying, hate crimes, and suicide because so few people in our society, possibly the world, are able to realize what they have and what they are, in and of themselves, is sufficient unto itself, to justify their existence and placement in the order of things.  I saw a video posted on facebook yesterday by a high school senior about being bullied.  This girl is gorgeous, talented, accomplished, engaged, and active…and has been the target of bullying.  She talked about how she didn’t want to be one of “those girls” who allows the hurtful and hateful words and actions of other to cause her to believe that she’s worthless.  She spoke of who she is and the gifts she has and her accomplishments, not in an arrogant way, but in a way that sincerely acknowledges that she is sufficient in and of herself to qualify for her place in this world.  One of the things she stated was that she knew she was loved and cared about.

Ah ha! There it is. She knows she’s loved and cared about.  How many of us go through our lives believing that we are not loved and not cared about?  How many of us grow up without that understanding?  Whether it was true or not, somewhere along the line I came to believe that I wasn’t loved or cared about.  Then, somehow, despite how much I love and care about my oldest kids, managed to pass that same message onto them.

In a conversation I had with a new friend I’m growing a relationship with, we talked about this urgent need to do something “big” in the world that matters.  She’s a stay at home mom with a couple of littles.  I’m looking at becoming a stay at home mom with my littlest.  Neither of us are much good on the self-care aspect of living.  My epiphany was this: The biggest thing I can do that matters in this world is to help my youngest grow up with and try to show my older kids, how truly loved and cared about they are.  That’s the foundation of good relationships.

Becoming one of the “cool kids” isn’t about how much you can do, achieve, or give, it’s about how you grow a relationship.  Without a sense of being loved and cared about as part of the foundation of who you are, there’s always a sense of being on the outside looking in, if they only knew the “real” me, and everyone else is so much more or better than me.  Then, I either try too hard or hold back for fear of rejection.  Trying too hard has looked like sharing too much too soon or taking charge and taking over.  This resulted in avoidance and rejection.  Then I held back from fear of rejection, and wound up isolated.

Starting this blog has been part of my efforts to figure out how to do things different.  As I’ve been checking the blogs of various people who have somehow managed to find my blog, I’ve found myself falling into that kind of thinking, as well.  There are many creative, brilliant, talented, and interesting people who are sharing their words, art, and gifts.  There’s a community of bloggers that I’m beginning to realize exists – whether some of these know each other personally or if their relationships have grown online, I have the distinct impression that there is community to be had here.  Slowly, I’m becoming part of that community.  Comments and replies and the feelings of kinship and affinity when I read the stories and comments of others.

I’m pleased to say that’s spreading out into other aspects of my life.  That new friend I mentioned? A couple of years ago she was one of the “cool kids” that I never imagined would be part of my circle.  During that time, we’ve connected here and there, but nothing consistent or really deep.  She’s known a few of the things I’ve dealt with over the past couple of years, but I know a bit more about a particular struggle she has had – not the specifics, but enough that when I was trying to think of someone I could connect with who might relate to some of what I’m being faced with now, her name popped into my mind.  In the past, I would have dismissed the thought and had all kinds of reasons why she shouldn’t be bothered.  But, she has made it a point to respond to my stilted efforts to reach out and I went ahead and made the call.  That’s progress for me. The beautiful thing was that she was able to talk and we did spend quite some time on the phone and actually talk about what’s going on in both of our worlds in ways that are significant.

Wait, what happened with the assistant?  At the end of the episode, the first season’s new kid counsels her that she doesn’t have to try to fit in, she already does.  All she has to do is look around and realize that every person there has their own set of faults, foibles, and idiosyncrasies as well as talents, gifts and achievements.  Then she just needs to accept that while she has her differences, she’s no different from them in reality.

So, being one of the “cool kids” is about acceptance of self and others along with a willingness to believe that we are loved and cared for, despite how things may feel or appear.

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7 comments

  1. Now that is quite one of the most insightful takes on fitting in I’ve ever read. I, too, find myself struggling to know where I fit or belong. I once had one of our mutual friends tell me that when she first met me she thought I was stuck up because I never stuck around after church. Completely surprised by this, I tried to think of what was happening at the time and realized I was in a failing marriage, struggling with a divorce, in a hurry to get home to pick up my son with whom I only had about 4 or 5 hours at a time, and generally stressed to the max. On top of all that, I didn’t feel acceptable or part of the “in” crowd, even though as I think back they did invite me to lunch several times.

    I’ve never felt “in” to be honest. I’ve always been somewhat off the beat everyone else danced to for some reason. What I’ve discovered is that beat is insync in a weird way and adds to the music of social interaction when I stop worrying about it and just begin the dance. I don’t have to do it like anybody else but just join in…some won’t like it because they like conformity to what they’re comfortable with, but others will begin to include some of my style in with theirs. That last part is what happens with all of us if our eyes are open. We have influence and that influence should tell us more about our value than anything else.

    Good article, my dear.

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      1. That’s because we have more time to talk. When I’m at church I’m usually tearing down equipment or talking to people about the service. At potlucks I tend to come in late after everyone’s ready to leave because, again, I’m putting things away.

        It’s funny that I’m even considered one of the “cool kids” at all. I’m pretty much a nerd 🙂

        Like

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