Sunday, April 30, 2006

Living life "on the fringe"

I'm noticing an interesting trend in my life, that has also come upon me in this blogging world. I find it quite fascinating that I continually find myself in this place. I like to call it, living "on the fringe" of something. What does this mean? Well, let me explain.

Most of my life, I can say I have been well-liked by whatever peer group I surround myself with, and I don't take this for granted one bit. I'm very thankful for it. Unlike my little sister, I don't make big enemies or have friendship "divorces" very often in my life. I even blogged on here awhile back about my "friend-turned-arch-enemy" neighbor. Even now, we've found middle ground and are friendly with one another again, but friendly at a little distance. And, I'm good with that now that I've worked through my issues with her and learned to forgive.

As a kid, it was the same way. Admittedly, I was not unlike many little girls in that I secretly dreamed of being in the popular group or dating the most popular boys. My only problem was, I was painfully shy and I just refused to treat the unpopular people the way that the "in" crowd did because that wasn't right. So, this held me "on the fringe" of the popular crowd.

And, that middle ground is where I find myself even today in most of my social interactions. I don't know if it is my personality, still being a little shy and not one to jump on the table and lead a joke. Or if it is that I have something that unconsciously makes me hold myself back emotionally to a certain extent. (The latter option is something I want to explore more, because it could be a possibility.)

I was shocked many years ago when I left my first technical writing job for a much higher-paying one. Our department constantly had turnover and one thing we'd become accustomed to was the big "goodbye" lunch out with the whole group. Well, when my lunch day came, I was really taken aback and honored by the turnout of smiling faces and well-wishers. I said something about it to a good pal of mine, and he told me, "Don't you know you're one of the most well-liked people in our department?"

Huh? What? I was sincerely surprised by that comment. I didn't feel like I was that at all! Now, to avoid sounding like Sally Field here (you really liked me?), I will say that I did not think I had a ton of enemies in this group. But, I didn't ever feel popular. I thought I was right on the cusp of the popular group as I'd always been. And, honestly, I still think that's really where I was at that workplace.

Now, there are benefits to living life "on the fringe." Here are some that I have noticed:

  • You get invited to SOME of the cool parties, but not all. That's really enough for me at this point in my life.

  • You are well thought of often, but NOT thought of for various "responsibilities" in organizations or social groups. "Oh, that MomCat she is nice, isn't she? Now, who should get get to lead the Vacation Bible School this year?" (Give me an AMEN, to that one!)

  • You know enough to not feel like an idiot in conversations with the cool cats, but not enough to REALLY get the inside joke. Still, you can act like it. And, sometimes this is a good thing. After all, one of my favorite sayings is "ignorance is bliss."

  • Some people DO think of you as a leader and trend-setter, even though you don't think of yourself that way by any means. This is flattering and you always appreciate a complement!

Now, there are a few negatives. You feel like you're never the one everyone is talking about and not the one everyone thinks of when they think of great party people, fantastic organizers or even the best blog writer out there. But, I think about how my life would be different if I were an attention-getter, and I don't know I'd be entirely comfortable or happy in those shoes at all.

The biggest negative that seems to be a sensitive point for me, is feeling like you're the forgotten one or the one who doesn't really count with your friends. (This is one for future therapy sessions, should I ever need those!)

But, on the whole, living life "on the fringe" does have its advantages. It's an interesting world out there. I'm glad that I can blend with people of all different backgrounds and beliefs. I have extremely liberal friends and very conservative friends. I also have religious friends and agnostics or non-believers. I have artsy friends and high-tech friends who wouldn't know a Monet a child's preschool painting. I have wilder-than-wild friends who party till the sun comes up, and friends who are in bed by 9 p.m. each night. And, I usually feel comfortable hanging out with any and all of these people most of the time.

I guess, in my life, I consider myself an observer most of all. I was once told that I had the eyes of a writer because I tend to watch others, take it all in and then think about how that applies to my life or those around me and then try to put the pieces together. And, the older I get, the more I appreciate this about myself. It's not so bad, living on the fringe fact, there is no place I'd feel at home but there.


Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

I, too, live life on the fringe. It always amazes me when people ask for my opinion, want to spend time with me, or tell me I'm someone they look up to. I've never been in the popular crowd and I always hung with the "out" kids because I felt sorry for the way others treated them. I try to treat everyone with respect. I have friends in many different circles - some are wild, some are brainy, some are uber - religous, and some are artsy fartsy. I love each and every one of them for who they are.

I'm with you - there's no place I'd rather spend my time than on the fringes...

5:07 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Vanessa said...

When I turned 40 something magical happened and I completely stopped caring what anyone thought of me. I've never felt better, and truly believe that this is God's gift to us all when we turn 40!! It frees you from all the restraints that once kept you from wearing your ugly shoes in public, or that sunhat to the get it? It's also great because it frees you to no longer worry about the "in" crowd or the "out" crowd. Am I making any sense here?

5:41 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Trust me when I say that in the blog world, you will always sort of feel like you're on the fringes. At least I do... There will always be someone not giving you the time of day, no matter who else thinks you're great. :)

5:42 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Carol said...

I agree with Lucinda - I think most of feel on the fringe.

Now as far as your writing - once again - this was a fabulous post. You have a way with words!

5:49 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Dipu said...

It's definitely possible to be "on the fringe" and yet still well-liked. Could even argue that that's better!

6:53 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

I really can't say I'm living my life on a fringe but it is almost near to it.

8:50 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'd rather be on the fringe. The fringe is funky and wild and different depending on the direction you're looking at it.

11:50 PM, April 30, 2006  
Blogger Lisabell said...

If you don't already know this (and maybe you don't...), yours is the first blog I check for updates every day. Maniacally, like 6 or 7 times, until there's something new :)
That's how much I look forward to your writing, Steph. I'm not a huge commenter, but you touch me every time you post your thoughts and feelings. I love you, man!

12:10 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

The whole observer thing? I got that in spades--I always think of myself as a student of human nature & I'm endlessly fascinated by the way people's minds work. So I guess I'm on the fringe and a little bit of a freak to boot. :)

7:22 AM, May 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I've been a "fringe benefit" my entire life, it seems. Maybe it's because I don't know any better, but I can't imagine it being any other way.

8:34 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

I've lived on the fringe of the fringe my whole life. Not really fitting in, not really an outcast. It takes a lot of time and maturity to realize that this is an ok place to be. Besides, who really wants to be invited to all those parties?? ;)

10:33 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger "D" said...

amen sista! I'm a fringer myself, and after reading your post, I feel perfectly fine to be there!

11:48 AM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger frazzledmom said...

You and I would have been perfect friends in high school. I was the one who the popular people liked but wasn't quite cool enough to be involved in all of the goings on but was also the person who helped the slow kid in class because I couldn't bear the thought of him being behind (now I work with kids with special needs). There are many parts in life where I am on the fringe as well...not necessarily the bad place to be. Watching as you do, is a very beneficial way to learn the process of life. I love being a people watcher. Let's started THE FRINGE CLUB and just sit back and watch.

9:21 PM, May 01, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

I already responded to a few of you via email, but here's some more--

Masked M--freakiness is totally underrated, so I say go with that girlfriend!

Lisabell--you know I think you're the cat's meow too...

Frazzled--I like that. Fringe Sisters UNITE! grin

10:32 PM, May 01, 2006  

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