When you don’t fit in…


The year was 1997. I moved out of home for the first time. It was a personal decision, taken much against the wishes of my father, who thought I could continue my education in the small hill town where we lived. But I thought differently. I wanted to see life in big cities. They said big cities held more promises. I was academically inclined, had always performed decently well and was quick to make friends. I didn’t see any reason why my parents should have been worried for me.

And so, after much brouhaha over my decision back home, I made my way to a bustling city. The most difficult task in a new place is finding your gang. And at an age when friendships are the sweet nothings you are looking for, this task becomes even more onerous.

I had a picture of me in my mind- an image that was near perfect and a notion that everyone else also viewed me through a similar lens. It’s natural. We see ourselves in a certain light and assume those rays bend at similar angles for others as well. But that is not true. The same light bulb that forms a sharp image for me might just be casting a shadow for you, depending on where you stand. And so, despite all my affability and my meteoric scores or even my well praised poetic platitudes that appeared in college magazines, I struggled to fit in. Not everywhere, but in those few circles that I desired to be a part of.

At such a juncture, it was disheartening. I was seventeen, almost eighteen and I couldn’t understand what made it so difficult for me to break in. The struggle was real. In a cosmopolitan culture, I was way too young to understand why my ‘charm’ didn’t work. To find your tribe there are no rules. No columns that must be checked. Even if there are a few and you check all, you may still be an outsider. There is snobbery and sly smirking. They are kind generally, but you aren’t one of them. I think I’ll put it that way.

Anyway, in all this, I sometimes felt other hands reach out to me. But I was clamouring for someone else’s attention all the time. My exemplars were kind as I said, but I was often the friend chosen to run errands. I didn’t find a place in private conversations or so-called clandestine talks. I was part of the jigsaw puzzle but I hadn’t been cut-out perfectly.

It was an-almost three-year long ordeal. I existed and yet I didn’t. Now when I look back, I feel it was nobody’s fault. We were people from different walks of life and I was probably asking for more than somebody could give me. Gradually, I retreated my steps. I didn’t want to live on somebody’s mercy all my life.

After trying to figure out things for long, I made a little space for myself somewhere. Not the place I wanted to be in, but a place where I fitted in so well. We often spend hours chasing the wrong people, the ones who are happy without us. We live in the illusion that they are the only ones who complement us. The truth is otherwise.

It was a lesson well learnt. For as I moved ahead at work and generally, I realized that this situation was part of our humdrum life. But now I was always on my guard. The heart is a fragile something. You must fortify it well. I became more reticent but also more prepared to tackle the world.

The interesting bit is that I met one of my so-thought idols much later in life and we somehow got another chance to work with each other this time. We were both much older and different people too than what we had been back in college. I was cordial but had lost the ability to open up to others. Just before our year-long association was to end, my friend walked up to me. She wished to apologize for something that had happened fifteen years ago in college. Ironically, we had never discussed it back then. My retreating had been subtle and without any complaints. Maybe undercurrents are hard to ignore.

That day, we parted on a happy note. But we went our ways. I always feel that sometimes its best not to stretch anything, least of all relations. To cherish them while they are there and to let them go when you don’t fit in.

Do you have a similar experience to share? I’d love to hear from you!

(Image: Pixabay)

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Unlocked - Historical Tales in Verse by Sonia Dogra

40 thoughts on “When you don’t fit in…”

  1. Navigating friendships and social circles is a journey that is difficult at times and changes as we change. You’ve illustrated that so well in your sharing today, Sonia. One of the most complicated friendships I had was with a girl I became friends with when we were both 10 years old. My parents had divorced and my mom and us kids moved into a new neighborhood. I’d been very shy and introverted up to that point in my quiet neighborhood that had few kids, but she and a gang of kids ran through our yard and my brothers and I had instant friends. She and I were inseparable over the years until we hit age 20 or so. She ended up moving away and we kept in regular touch through snail mail (back then it was all we had and long distance calls cost a fortune) and she visited her family on a semi-regular basis. When she was around 30, she met and married a man from another state and moved too far away to visit much. We kept up writing through snail mail until the internet came on the scene, around 1995 for me and a few years later for her. It’s weird, but once we could instantly communicate through chat, our communication fell off. A lot to do with me not being available through being too busy exploring this wonderful thing called the internet. Our life paths diverged more and more, until one day I realized we had become too different from each other to remain friends. I decided to end the friendship, and there was no pushback on her part, which must mean she felt the same way. The friendship ending wasn’t good or bad, more sad, but it made me more receptive to those around me I’d kept at a distance. Now I don’t have just one main friend, I have several decent friendships. Sorry to go on and on about it, but you asked 🙂

    Also, Sonia, I just downloaded your book. THANK YOU for making your stories from A-Z available in book format! Congratulations on its being published!!!!!

    1. Hi Jade
      So nice to hear from you! And how wonderful that you shared a piece of your life with me. I hear you exactly because I’ve fallen apart more than once. But I let go and held on to beautiful memories. Once or twice when I tried getting back I realised it wasn’t the same. It never is.
      Thank you for downloading the book. So nice of you!

      1. You’re so right about holding onto the beautiful memories. Bitterness has no place in a life that has so many other things to choose from. My pleasure on downloading the book <3

  2. “The same light bulb that forms a sharp image for me might just be casting a shadow for you, depending on where you stand.”

    Wonderful example, this. I think almost everyone can relate with your story. We all struggle to be the “hip” ones, with friends etc, but life rarely works that way. And yes, like you, when I look back at my journey so far, I see why it went the way it did.

    Top post. 👏👏

  3. The not being accepted stage for me was high school. I went to an urban commuter college, where there was a lot of diversity of ages and backgrounds, so I was able to make some close friends.

  4. When I joined college, I was all ready to find that circle of close friends that I could hang out and have adventures with. But four years have passed and although I’ve worked with multiple groups, I couldn’t find the kind of comfort group I had from school. I’ve learnt to be okay with it. Very relatable post, Sonia. 🙂

  5. Navita Bhatia

    That sounded so familiar!! Yes, like many of us I too had that phase of life when I felt like being left out!! The realization that’ It doesn’t matter much’ and ‘ I have been trying to fit in the company of wrong people’ came very late. But that is what life is about..experiencing and learning from those experiences!! Isn’t it?

  6. “To cherish them while they are there and to let them go when you don’t fit in.” This is indeed the secret of blissful life. Attachment & Detachment simultaneously. But its practice is very tough.

  7. It is so peaceful to settle a old score. You said it right, fortify your heart. During my young days every three years we were at a different place – so can relate to some of the thoughts

  8. It resonates with me. It was always a big issue for me to fit in after leaving Shimla. Sure people were warm but like you said you did not fit perfectly in the jigsaw. Loved reading it.

  9. I can so relate to your story Sonia. I moved out of a small town reaching the big city with all my expectations and apprehensions..and spent a long struggling years to just fit in and being accepted. Thankfully I found a few friends who handheld me in the outside world, whereas my pack of loving sisters kept me strong within.
    You have shared your story so beautifully and heartwarmingly. Loved your message.

    1. I’m sure anyone who moved out for whatever reason must have encountered a similar experience. Some good, some not so good. All a learning in the end.

  10. So loved this candid and self- analysing post Sonia.
    One never goes through life for the experience. One lives it for the moment.
    Experience comes later and with it realisation!!
    Hope you get what I’m trying to say!! 🤔😊

  11. Completely loved it Sonia. The theme was such a relevant one. I always had a leader like attitude in school, who was savior of others in crisis. But something happened to that girl that made her choked from inside. Though I had my own tribe in college too. But in certain circle I am an odd woman out. So I silently walked away. Your post touched my heart Sonia. Hugs dearie.

  12. Very nicely said Sonia… There have been so many times I had wondered to myself as to what is wrong.. Why am I not welcomed… Why don’t I fit in in their clandestine discussions as you said. As time passed… I grew to realise… It’s OK… It’s OK if I don’t fit in… It’s OK if I am left to my self too… I can still find that sense of belonging with just me within myself… I don’t need to pursue something or some place I probably don’t belong or not welcomed. Ironically after this transition… Many people came on their own and left on their own too… And somehow I never felt alone again 😊

  13. So well put Sonia, I love your sorted out thoughts and it reflects in your writing.
    I have been somewhat like this but my situation was a little different, my dad use to get transferred to different places in every 3-4 years and we have lived in Himachal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, M.P, U.P, Bihar.. just imagine that fitting in part and honestly my charm failed many times.. after some time, I stopped forcing myself to fit in..like you said and it helped 🙂 Somewhere language was a barrier, somewhere I just could not make friends at all, I hardly have any constant friends, my mains. I am still searching for them without fitting in 🙂

  14. “We often spend hours chasing the wrong people, the ones who are happy without us. “….. So very well crafted article/ memoir. How easy life would be if this understanding dawns a lil early in life👍

  15. I am so glad that you wrote this memoir. I loved how it is honest and full of warmth. I can understand your struggle, as I myself went through a similar ordeal in college where it was a struggle to fit it. I was also from the hills and was not used to typical city life. I am happy that you reconciled with your friend. Keep writing.

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