We all have “our people.”
When you’re with “your people,” you know.
You can just be you, all of you.
You don’t have to be anything or anyone else.
It’s effortless, easy, comfortable, energizing, safe.
You’re accepted just as you are. Your people “get” you.
I recently had the privilege of being with “my people” in Philadelphia.
A group of us who graduated from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition have been connecting on Facebook for the past five months or so, but most of us had never met in person. We arranged to meet up for the first time to share a nourishing lunch and attend a cooking class at Pure Sweets & Co.
As I was driving home, a wave of emotion came over me because I felt a deep sense of gratitude that I finally fit in.
I had found “my people.” I didn’t have to be anyone other than me. I could be my truest, most authentic self, my most alive self. And everyone there accepted and embraced me for who I was.
Our time together was effortless, easy, comfortable, energizing, and safe.
For most of my life I felt like I didn’t fit in, that I didn’t belong.
Sure, I had friends like every other kid and grew up in a neighborhood with a bunch of kids my age. But I struggled with feelings of loneliness and not feeling understood.
I was never one for groups of friends, aside from a group of girl friends in high school (I went to an all girls school), which has since disbanded. I was closer to my parents than I was to my peers. They knew me the best and knew the most about me. I trusted them. They “got” me…but I rarely felt like other people did.
For most of my life, I felt different.
Ear infections, sinus infections, strep throat, adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, tubes in my ears, sinuses drained, several failed ear drum patches or prostheses – these were the recurring illnesses and surgeries I had growing up.
I took more rounds of antibiotics than I can count. I can still recall the taste of the creamy pink amoxicillin.
I feared water being anywhere near my head. A splash from the pool, tub or shower, and I could be headed for another painful ear infection. I learned to be very careful.
I spent most of my childhood summers at a community pool called Swan Lake near our house.
Because of all of my ear issues, I couldn’t go underwater, never learned to dive, couldn’t take swimming lessons, couldn’t play games with my friends in the “deep end” and had to wear a custom-made hot pink earplug whenever I was in the water. I stopped wearing it because it was embarrassing.
When everyone else can do something you can’t do, you just feel a little different.
I felt like I didn’t belong, like I didn’t fit in. I hated that I couldn’t be a part of what they were doing. When these things happen in our childhood, they tend to stay with us and impact us, even as adults.
Growing up, I went to Catholic school from 1st through 12th grade, but I wasn’t Catholic, despite the fact that my aunt is a nun, ironically enough.
I remember not fitting in there either. In second grade, all of my classmates made their first Holy Communion. The girls in my class would wear their pretty white communion dresses and get flowers and have big parties to celebrate.
I was the only girl in my class who didn’t get to do that, who couldn’t be a part of it.
My dad took me to an Orioles game that day and bought me a white rose and a bag of my favorite candy, Reese’s peanut butter cups. He knew I felt left out, and he wanted me to feel special.
The same thing happened again in 8th grade when everyone was Confirmed. I looked back at my diary from that day and saw that I had written this:
Tonight my class was confirmed. I felt left out. I had to walk up the center aisle holding nothing because the Lectionary was at the front of the church. I was holding back tears all night because I felt excluded. I didn’t belong.
Despite my sadness, I was always really good at putting on the “I’m okay, everything is great!” face, but inside I struggled to feel accepted, wanted, and liked.
I’ve been searching for much of my life to feel like I truly fit in somewhere, like I belong to a group that “gets” me.
In Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to experience a glimpse of it.
As a group of seven of us from Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania met over a nourishing, energizing, delicious lunch at Pure Sweets & Co. in Philadelphia, we connected, we fit in, we could just be ourselves.
It was effortless, easy, comfortable, energizing, and safe.
As we talked and laughed and connected, we shared our visions for how we believe the world can be and the impact we want to have on it.
We talked about the challenges we face “getting” our friends or family to try new foods and recipes, to understand our perspective on food and health, and to embrace our mission to change the world through food.
We “geeked out” together as we savored melt-in-your-mouth pad thai, rich and creamy mushroom soup, and delicious desserts.
We shared our internal struggles to feel like we are enough, know enough, are qualified enough to do the work each of us feels called to do. We laughed as we talked about how we seem to perpetually enroll in one certification program or training after another, all the while thinking each one will make us more legitimate.
Our time together was freeing because it was about just being and being ourselves – having this sense of community around a shared bond that is so important to all of us – food.
For someone who’s struggled to feel like I fit in and belong, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for this community.
To feel like I have that is an amazing gift. I’m so grateful.
All of us want to feel like we’re okay. We want to know that we’re enough. We want to know that people accept us, love us and appreciate us just as we are.
So as I close out this reflection, I challenge you to think about this question:
Who are “your people?”
Who lets you to just be you?
Who makes you feel alive when you’re with them?
Who embraces you for your passions, who you are, and what you love?
Seek them out.
When you find “your people,” you’ll know.