My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Belonging

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging lately.

When I was a kid, I struggled with belonging. I never felt like I really fit in anywhere. I was very shy and overweight, and I didn’t have many friends. I usually felt like the odd one out or a third wheel, no matter what size the group was that I was with.

In my teens, it was even worse.

Things started to get a little better in my early 20s. I began to open up more and it was a little easier to make friends, but I still didn’t have that many. And I still struggled with fitting in and belonging.

I got married in my late 20s and moved to Canada. Almost immediately, I noticed was I finally starting to feel like I belonged.  I was welcomed with open arms by husband’s family, friends, and co-workers.  That was HUGE, especially for someone who’d felt like an outsider most of her life.

As my life in Canada progressed, I found places where I fit in and people to connect with. It was wonderful. There were still occasions where I didn’t feel like I belonged, but they were fewer and fewer.

When I received my cancer diagnosis in 2009, I once again struggled. I struggled with defining myself as a cancer survivor. I was lucky and it was caught very early. I had surgery to remove it and did not require chemo or radiation. I didn’t feel like I belonged in that group of people who weren’t as lucky. It took me a long time to release I was wrong.

When I began running a few years ago, I struggled with defining myself as a runner. I didn’t feel like I was a “real” runner because I was so much slower than everyone else. But here’s the thing I quickly discovered: It didn’t matter if I was fast or slow. A runner is a runner.

And I also realized that running helped me feel like I belonged.  Just like when I first moved to Canada, I was welcomed into the running community with open arms. The running community is awesome! When I’m struggling with my running, I can always count on other runners for encouragement. And I think that’s the biggest reason I’ve kept at it.

A year ago today, my favourite coffee shop closed down. It was a very sad day. Not because they had great coffee, which they did, but because of the people. From the first day I walked into the place, I felt welcome. Someone was always there to offer a smile and a kind word. One of the things I noticed early on was everyone was welcome there.  It felt like home. I quickly became friends with the owner, Juliet. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Once I overcame my initial shyness, I started sitting with the regulars. We’d push tables together to make one large table. And everyone was welcome. And oh the conversations we had at the big table! We talked about everything. We did crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles, we’d discuss world events, we share the good and the bad about our lives. We became friends at that table.  Once again, I felt like I belonged. It’s been a year since the place closed, and I still miss it.

While I sometimes still struggle with feeling like I don’t belong in some places, I’ve learned that you don’t just belong in one place. You belong with those who support you, who love you, who make you feel welcome and appreciated. It could be the family you were born into or the family you chose for yourself. It could be your friends, those you socialize with, or those you work with.  And if you ever feel like you don’t belong, just stop and look around you. Find those you connect with and you’ll find where you belong.

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My friend Juliet

There are a few people in my life that inspire me and make me want to be a better person. They inspire me to be kinder, more open, gentler … just be a better person.

Juliet is one of those people.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she is that kind of person to many others.

Juliet is a beautiful person, inside and out. Her smile lights up the room, and her laughter is magical.

She’s kind and understanding. 

She’s full of life and love. 

She shows compassion and kindness to everyone. 

She’s smart and funny. 

She’s incredibly creative. 

She makes everyone feel important and worthy of love. 

She’s one of the hardest-working people I know. 

She has a huge heart.

She’s just an amazing person.

Talking to her, no matter the subject, always makes me feel better. I feel lighter somehow, even if we are just talking about events of the day. I just love being around her.

I admit that when I first met her, it took me awhile to open up and allow our friendship to grow. I don’t make friends easily, but she made it easy. 

I feel like I’ve grown since I met her. I’d like to think that being friends with her has helped me be a better person — kinder and gentler to myself and others, and more open to the world in general.

She’s the kind of person that just makes the world a better place just by being here.

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