I wasn’t the cool kid. Not in elementary school, middle school, or even high school. I was even less cool in college. Some people knew my name though…but mostly because I was a nerd and won awards…or because I played a sport that they watched…or was a member of a team or an organization that had some cool people in it. But me, myself…well I wasn’t cool.
And, I was ok with it. I am still ok with it.
But, simply ok. Because exclusion is usually part of the identity of being a “not cool kid.” And, I’ve accepted that I’m not a cool kid.
Even now, as I write this…I feel a sense of sadness…and not because I wasn’t/am not, cool…but because exclusion, whether intentional or not, doesn’t feel good.
Let’s pause for a second.
So, I’m a graduate of Howard University…class of 2002. This year, this homecoming, was my 20th anniversary as a Bison. At age 11, I knew I wanted to attend Howard. I was in admiration of Justice Thurgood Marshall and his work for equality in law and education. Yup, at 11 years old, I cared about race identity and relations. I also was interested in forensics, specifically related to serial killers. So, the opportunity to be in DC, where the headquarters of the FBI was located, was even more appealing. Therefore, my college decision was made before I applied…and I got in.
And, while there, at Howard, I had an amazing time and loved nearly every moment of it, except for the times I was, excluded. Again, there are times when this may have been intentional and other times when it wasn’t. However, during this special homecoming rotation, those feelings of exclusion emerged and I felt lonely for quite a few hours. I wondered, “Where are MY friends, the ones that loved me even while I was (and maybe still am) lame?”, “Where are the people who’ve seen my work and growth over the past 20 years and always comment on my page and stories?”, “Where are the people I wanted to be around when I was 19 years old…but who didn’t invite me to the parties?”. And, all these feelings emerged because…I wasn’t invited to a party or 2. Yup, that simple. See, it’s not FOMO. I didn’t FEAR missing out…I was sad because nobody thought to include me. I know they may seem like the same thing, but they aren’t. To this date, I don’t FEAR that I am missing anything. I continue to believe that I’m always where I’m supposed to be, whether at home in my bed, on a boat with friends, in class with students, or sitting in the family room with my kids. Spiritually, I believe that I’m always in the right place at the right time…even when I don’t understand why I am there. But in this case, what I felt was – dang, people really don’t think about me or care about me enough to make sure they spend time with me. And, before you start aligning that statement with ego (with a little e)…it’s more about Ego (with a a big E).
Right now, most people use the word ego to refer to a grandiose sense of self-importance and to think that they are/may be better than other people and/or experiences. However, Freud, and those who identify with his psychoanalytic work, originally used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. In the experience of homecoming, my synthesis of information – specifically related to my identity – was on the line. I began to question, where do I belong…because, exclusion will make you question your sense of belonging…and since we are communal people, belonging is connected to identity. So, I started thinking…who am I? Am I who I think I am and do people see me as I see myself? Still, not cool…but, more aligned with the real me?
The answer was yes…and no.
The Friday of Yardfest, most of my friends and people of my class were at work or traveling to DC for the weekend. Yet, I had the flexibility to be on the yard. The parties were passed by word of mouth and there wasn’t anyone around to tell me. Now, they could have reached out and told me, but that’s not what happened. So, when I saw the pictures and videos, I felt…excluded.
I reached out to a couple of friends and they comforted me…told me that people do see me how I see myself AND wanted to make sure I had an experience that I wanted to have…one of celebration for 20 years as a graduate of the Mecca…and my first experience as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., on our Yard…the ones that our Sorority founders walked and originated the amazing idea to create a service-based sorority for Black women.
So, for me, it was less about being cool and more about being included in the experiences I wanted to have…but I’m not going to lie…it did feel quite lonely for quite awhile And, I was triggered.
So to address these feelings (and possible reality) of being excluded, I:
Acknowledged how I felt
I contemplated my options
I reached out to my friends
I expressed my thoughts and feelings
Together, we came up with some solutions and MY Saturday and Sunday were amazing and what I wanted to experience.
I still wasn’t with the cool kids because…I’m not a cool kid. But I was with the people I wanted to be with and that made me feel good.
Do you ever feel excluded? How do you address it?