Finding Belonging in a World of Doubt and Competition

I've recently realized something about my life: I have lived so very much of it as the 2nd place runner-up, so to speak. I entered first grade terrified of my parents leaving the classroom each morning. Because of my severe separation anxiety, all the kids on the playground viewed me as stupid, annoying or just plain WEIRD. Therefore, I was the target of endless bullying from 1st-6th grade. It took me a long time and tooons of therapy in order to cultivate a sense of calm to a point where I could successfully function and learn in a schoolhouse environment, but once I did: I flourished.

Being the "weird one," didn't stop here, however. I never truly found a source of solid belonging growing up. Sure, I had love, respect and support from my immediate family, but I never had a large-scale sense of acceptance or appreciation from the world. Adoption is always hard on a youngin'. You're constantly trying to discover more about your heritage and where you fit in best. From my observations over the years, the majority of my adoptive family lacked the desire to foster close relationships with their family members. They're good living at a distance, and while that's absolutely fine if it works for them, this never fostered certainty in me as I became a part of their family.

To my best luck, I was also born with two other cultural identifiers that I could never fully claim. One being bisexual, and the other: Hispanic (Mexican). Due to my adoption, I was raised by a white family and never grew up in Mexican culture like my biological father. While I embraced and felt pride in my heritage, I was told by the world that I wasn't allowed to claim this culture as my own. As a bisexual individual who has predominantly chosen heterosexual relationships, while I have fought for LGBTQ rights for nearly a decade, I never truly felt as though I were included as, "one of them." Perhaps this is just the nature of growing up in a radical liberal community.

On top of this: I felt as though I was attractive, kind and funny, BUT I was also curvy with a belly. Sadly, I was never outwardly flirted with/"picked up," and was often told I wasn't the: "ideal body type," or was just flat out: "too thick," for many people I would've initially been interested in pursuing (disclaimer: I wear pant size 10 or 12, with the average American woman at size 14. This kind of unhealthy body critiquing is not safe, nor should it be considered "normal").

In terms of brains, I scored into something like the 93rd percentile for reading and writing on the SATs, but very much below average in math. I worked my butt off to graduate high school (dealing with a professor that failed to grade many of my assignments in a timely manner), took up a variety of volunteer opportunities to better my resume, as well as applications to college. I was a hard worker because I had to be.

I found myself out of place wherever I turned. This was an incredibly difficult position to be in as a small child and later, as a young teenager. With this lack of belonging, I looked for meaning wherever I could find it. I ended up loving people that did more to hurt me, associating with (and trusting) people who weren't safe nor helpful, as well as doubting my own ability to wholeheartedly succeed. I accepted half-assed outcomes and never stood up for myself to the extent I should have. I picked the career that seemed safest and stuck to it. Until I suddenly realized that I would live a bitter, unhappy life if I didn't quickly make a move to veer off this path I had chosen.

The only way I made sense of my life and pushed on utilizing resilience was by constantly teaching myself new things. Knowledge became the biggest source of power for me when attempting to take ownership of my successes. As long as I had my video editing, social media, blogging and other tech-savvy talents, I could be the best among the people I knew in at least one thing. This was my ticket to first place. Perfecting this craft and building my identity around it has allowed me to find a sense of belonging in a world where I had very little.

It is vital that we all pursue the career and greater lifestyle that lights us up inside. Something we feel proud of, something that makes us fill with joy when we speak of it, something we don't ever want to stop doing and something that gives us the opportunity to design our own podium for gold, regardless if we are handed that by somebody else. While it all might seem impossible to achieve initially, hard workers always triumph over those who aren't.

"Perfection is the disease of a nation. We shine the light on whatever's worst. You're trying to fix something, but you can't fix something that you can't see. No doctor or pill can take the pain away; the pain's inside and nobody frees you from your body. It's the soul that needs surgery. Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far, then you break when the fake facade leaves you in the dark. When you're alone and you're lying in your bed, reflection stares right into you: are you happy with yourself? Pretty hurts. This time I'm gonna take the crown without falling down."   -Beyonce, "Pretty Hurts"