When you were growing up did you feel that you “fit in” somewhere? When you are little you don’t even know about fitting in and then you get a little older, and start to look outside yourself and notice what other people are like, you start to notice messages in the media all around you, and you start to question who you are and where you fit.
I spent much of my life feeling like I was on the outside looking in and made all sorts of teenage mistakes trying to be like those who I thought were “the ones”. I thought I was not pretty enough, too fat, not cool, too clever, too tall, too boring. Getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as I was about to enter high school really put a curve ball in this for me. I felt so different and diseased, and just wrong. This feeling of being on the outside became a sense of total disconnection from the rest of the world when I suffered with depression and anxiety attacks in my 30’s following post natal depression, compounded later by post traumatic stress from my child protection work. In that life, working for 15 years with so many sad sad stories, my heart was broken over and over again as I saw babies and children with their hearts and bodies being broken by the very ones who should be their love and their haven.
I knew nobody with diabetes at all in my life and that did not change until I started my diabetes support services and blog in 2001, after leaving the child protection system which was literally killing me. I will never forget the first time I sat in a room with a group of other people with type 1 diabetes and we were all checking our blood glucose levels and counting the carbs in our dinner and making in jokes that you only get if you have diabetes. In many ways I finally was home in this community. I have spoken with thousands of people living with diabetes in the years since and this is such a common experience. When you live with something that takes up so much energy, so much of every moment of your life, but is hidden, something that can make you terrified and lonely and hopeless and sick – then you really need people who get it or you can just end up giving up. Managing type 1 diabetes in particular is a full time job on it’s own and the rates of depression in the diabetes community being double the rest of the population, is not surprising.
I imagine this is the same with all sorts of other conditions and situations – do you have a similar experience?
As I have grown older, I have learnt that I don’t actually want to “fit in” to anything in particular. I think for me it was more about finding my kindred spirits. I was always searching for my place, and in the past 15 years I have felt that I am home more than any other time of my last 47 years. Not only did I find a home in the diabetes community, but since starting Recycled Interiors I am exploring my creativity, and that is my oxygen – creativity and ideas are what keep me alive. The creative community, that is many of you, are such a generous and giving bunch.
What has surprised me since working in this world for the last 2 years is how many people think that there is a need to “fit in” when it comes to their homes. Home is such a big word. We talk every day about our homes. We talk about building them and renovating them and decorating them and changing them and cleaning them and organising them. We talk about living in them and eating in them and spending time in them. We share pictures and stories and ideas and products. I had spent my life with my actual home being the one place where I did not have a need to fit in. It was my sanctuary, my place, my world. It was not a place of comparison or judgement or fashion. I certainly am very house proud and would spend hours scrubbing and faffing to present my home in her shiny best whenever a guest pops over, just as I prefer not to go out in my daggiest trackies with my hair unwashed. But it was never about fitting in.
As I have read more and more magazines, watched more and more television shows and scoured more and more websites about interior design and decorating, I have seen that there is a push to make people want to fit in. To make you doubt your own style, to make you wonder if you have got it right. Driven by the need to sell products, there is an all consuming fashion in the interiors world that I was previously oblivious to.
The idea that you should have a certain look or be criticised, that you should change this look regularly and toss stuff out – that is one of the biggest issues we have in terms of sustainable consumption.
I think you need to look at your home as your sanctuary, a place that tells your story and one which asks nobody to “fit in”. It should speak of you and your family, your stories, your passions, your dreams and your needs. If someone else likes a different look, that is totally cool, that is their sanctuary, and difference is what makes the world go round anyway isn’t it?
Next time you wonder if your couch is the “right” choice, your wall colours are “outdated” or your choice of kitchen bench is old hat, stop and wonder instead, whether you love it and if it is doing it’s job, which are the two main things – then sit back and get on with living your life, comfortable in the knowledge that you are you, and that is enough.
Do you feel like you don’t fit in sometimes too?