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It’s a basic human need - to fit in, to feel like you matter, to feel important, to be seen, to be heard, to be a part of something. Someone close to me recently divulged that he hasn’t felt like he belonged anywhere or with anyone for most of his life. Always felt like an outsider.

How can that be, I thought? You’re part of a loving family, you have friends, hobbies you enjoy. But that was just what I saw from the surface. Yes, those things were technically true, but he said most of what I ‘saw’ was an act that sometimes takes A LOT of effort. To TRY and feel comfortable in certain situations, to fit in...but always underneath it all feeling like he never did, never would. That nobody really, truly understood him. And those ‘hobbies’ I thought he had were mere distractions from the repetitiveness of the day to day loneliness and frustrations.

He could trace these feelings back to childhood. At first, again I wanted to dismiss this because who hasn’t felt awkward in middle school and high school?? I mean, that’s the time you’re trying to really start figuring out your place in the world. But he explained, no, it was deeper than that. Existential almost. A deep, dark belief that he only had himself to rely on.

So that began years of searching. Went to several different colleges, switched majors multiple times, lived in several different areas of the world, had jobs too numerous to count, relationships that didn’t last...desperate to find that one ‘thing’ that would make his life mean something.

I would never have guessed this was how he felt. My heart broke for him. To me, he was a free spirit. I admired his ability to try all these new things and live all of these different places. But as I listened more, I could see the pain in his eyes, the yearning in his heart for finding his true purpose for being on this Earth. But what I also saw was determination, strength, perseverance.

He was quick to tell me that he did not want sympathy from me. He IS finding his way, on his own terms. He wanted to share his story with me so that I could share it with others, possibly in a way he never could.

Look beyond the surface to see the soul.

Choose your words carefully and listen for what is not being said.

And finally, on a personal note, if I have ever been that person who made you feel like you didn't matter, you didn’t fit in, you weren’t important...I hope you will accept my apology. No one should ever feel that kind of pain. We all matter, we all have a place, we all belong.