April 8, 2014

Beer, Blogs, & Belonging. ~ Matt Franko


This article was inspired by a drunken paragraph that I wrote to myself.

At first it came across as a boring besotted blog-post, but I truly believe my rambling-while-roaring, exposed a quintessential weakness within me.

Drunk, sober, naïve or mature, there are certain feelings that follow me everywhere. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe I’m not all that weird, or alone.

Maybe, just maybe, some of these feelings follow you around too.

Without further ado, here is that famed, pie-eyed paragraph:

Why do we feel awkward? What is it about certain social situations that prompt a feeling of strange detachment from the current flavor of our surroundings?

Why is it that merely seeing the face of certain individuals can suddenly revert all of the personal progress you thought you had made back to nothing?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know how I feel.

At this very moment, I’m sitting on a couch in a friend’s house. Around me, is a rather large and lively party, filled with people, both familiar and unfamiliar. Tonight, the unfamiliar ones don’t bother me. I tend to enjoy meeting new people, and this particular crowd of partying strangers seems just as receptive as any. Again, it is not the set of new people that are evoking this feeling of nostalgic awkwardness.

Tonight, I’m taking issue with a select group of familiar individuals. The way that these individuals are making me feel right now is all to familiar. These same people produced these same feelings all the way back in High School.

High School.

To realize that a group of nearly meaningless people from my past still have this kind of power over me is to realize that no matter how much I build myself up, there is still a chance that I will come crashing down.

That all sounds a little glum, doesn’t it? Fear not concerned reader, for I’ve found value in this tribulation.

That pessimistic passage was written a couple of nights ago. In the morning following that party, when I first looked at what I had written, I was saddened. The words on that page reflected a part of me that hasn’t shown its face since “California Girls” was the new hot song. I’m hoping some of you will be able to identify with how I felt. When I was stuck in that self-sorrow saunter.

I felt singled out.

I felt awkward.

I felt disrespected.

I felt like the mere presence of the people around me inhibited me from being myself.

I don’t know about you, but when I feel singled out, I start to get angry.

I held those people in contempt.

I felt as though their actions and emotions towards me were unwarranted and unfair. I felt all of this until I realized something else:

For years now, I’ve gone through life without experiencing the feeling of complete social vulnerability that I felt on that couch—more importantly, I realized that there must be a reason for this.

Once I had this mini-epiphany, I began to look at the entire situation differently. I asked myself a few simple questions, one of them being;

Why did I go to that specific party?

The answer was simple. I went there because it was my best friend’s birthday. His friendship is what brought me to that party, and consequently, to those people.

The second question I needed to ask myself was:

What do those individuals actually mean to me, if anything at all?

Upon reflection, it was clear to me that aside from having a few mutual friends, the people in that room had no meaning in my life. The only reason I ever interact/interacted with most of them, is/was because we were all bussed to the same building five days a week, 10 months a year, for four years straight.

This realization paints a clearer picture of both my past and present. It tells me that the sensitivity I felt towards these people’s opinions was a result of pressures from a social circle that I entered into by default.

I think this explains why my current social-life in post-secondary seems so much more effortless, fulfilling, and complete.

It is because most of the friends I have now are my friends for entirely different reasons. These are people who I met through little or no external pressure. They’re people I chose.

Nowadays, I feel lucky. I feel lucky to go to social gatherings within my friend circle and feel wanted and respected. I feel lucky being around my friends because being myself isn’t a forced task, but an inevitability.

So what is the message that I’m trying to get across?

I think it’s simple—we all, at one time or another, will feel like we do not belong somewhere. Maybe it will be in an office, a classroom, or just in mundane and casual circumstances. The point is that we must take time to honestly and objectively evaluate not why we don’t belong, but why we care about belonging in the first place.

If I have learned anything in my first few years as an adult, it’s that not belonging, is often better.


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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: zouny/flickr

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