Years ago, when I was about eight years old, I remember laying in my white canopy bed with frilly, pink bedding, thinking, “How did I get here, in this body? How did my soul end up in this exact place?” I asked my mother, and I don’t know that she ever understood what I was asking fully. To be fair, the question was coming from a child, so she assuredly saw it as a basic inquiry. I never could understand how a soul floating around in space, would end up in a specific body, with a specific family, and live the particular body in which they landed. I had a bit of a disconnection, at times, with everything around me, because I just couldn’t understand where my soul came from, and how it ended up where it did.
About a year ago, I was having a tough time with some things. I asked one of my dearest friends if I was having a “mid-life crisis.” She responded with, “No, you’re having an existential crisis.” She may have hit the proverbial nail upon the head, but I don’t know that the crisis was limited to last year. I think I’ve been having that existential crisis my entire life. I grew up in a very Italian area. I was notably not Italian. I was very “Nordic,” in comparison. I mention this, because I looked, sounded, and acted differently from the other children. To add to that differentiation, I loved castles, unimaginable beasts, magic, mysticism, and anything that was not quite of this world. That bothered some kids, but I was fine imagining and playing on my own, anyway.
I often daydreamed that I was part of another world, and that at some point, someone would come through a great sci-fi portal to bring me back home. Wherever home was, that is. As a child, I was fairly convinced that I came from a world where people looked and acted more like I did. I felt like, somewhere, there was a home that I was missing. Somewhere, I fit in.
Some thought I looked like the literary descriptions of elves. Not the elves that make Santa’s Christmas happen, but the ones from fantasy books, who were tall and slender, with fair, glowing skin and pale eyes. It gave me hope that, maybe, there was a world out there that I would fit in. Some place where I just “fit.”
Although I’ve grown up, that feeling has never completely left me. That feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin. That cloud of not being like anyone else in the world, and never really fitting in. I’ve never been an extrovert, or an outgoing life-of-the-party type. I’m uncomfortable in most social situations, and prefer to keep to myself and “people watch.” At times, it really does feel like observing some foreign species that I just don’t relate to. Heck, if someone showed up at my door tomorrow, and said that they were here to take me back to some other world, maybe everything would suddenly make some sort of sense.
I rarely approach or handle things like other people. The world is very “black and white” for me. In most situations, there are very defined points of “right and wrong.” I was recently speaking with my sister about how we grew up. She said, “Most people don’t seem to understand why it’s so easy for us to be ethical, but I don’t know any other way to be.” You see, my sister and I grew up in a household that was very strong on ethics. My parents are still married, even after 55 years. They have stayed faithful to one another, without question. My mother once said, “Your father would have never cheated on me. Not because he loves me so much, but because you just don’t do that. That’s not something that is in his ethical makeup to do.” The comment seemed both sweet and sad, all at the same time.
My sister and I were raised viewing the world very differently from other people. We were expected to handle everything, remain strong, and power through any issues. If something needed to be moved, we moved it on our own. If a spider needed to be taken care of, we were the removal crew. Even when I fractured my foot, I was expected to get to the car (to go to the Emergency Room) on my own. When I failed to make it to the car, (upon request for assistance) my father simply said, “Hop.” In our household, there was simply never any allowance for “girly-ness,” “femininity,” or weakness.
This expectation of being strong has stuck to me through adulthood like super glue. Even when I tried to avoid it at all costs. I once asked a male friend to walk me to my car on a late, dark night. He said no. He wouldn’t even watch me walk to my car. He said, “You’ll be fine.” I wasn’t fine, I was nervous, and apprehensive. I didn’t feel safe. Months later, I found out that he was walking his new girlfriend a couple of blocks, from one destination to another. The distance he walked with her was viewable from his place of employment and did not exceed two city blocks. One day, I asked why he would walk her, and not me, when I had asked. He said, “Look at you, no one would bother you.” He never did elaborate on that more, but did (in the realization of hearing what he had said) try to then say that his girlfriend seemed more like a “victim” than I did.
The expectation is to “need” men, and to have them take care of you, if you’re a woman. Society is pretty unforgiving, if you’re a woman who can live without one. However, I have never understood what society thinks will happen to women without men, when they need to handle “manly” things? Are we expected to fail? To flounder? Or to take care of it ourselves? And if we take care of it ourselves, why are we condemned, and not regaled?
Ultimately, I am a breed unto myself. I sit alone in a world of species whom I do not understand, nor do I really relate to. And I continue to wait for my companion to show up and escort me back to a world where people think, act, and look like me.