If you want an example of not ‘belonging’ [see previous blog] then you’d be hard-pressed to get something more heartfelt, more forlorn, than the words of Radiohead’s quietly building then scorchingly angst-ridden debut single released in the autumn of 1992.
[If you don’t know it then a) shame on you and b) please take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with a cracking example of early 90’s defiant melancholy here].
I was 17 when it came out, and I can remember smashing around crap nightclubs on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent with my mate Nobby (amongst other reprobates) singing the words out like they had been written for us.
Ironically, that was somewhere we did feel we belonged – where we did ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ (whilst probably secretly hoping that people were actually watching – I was 17, remember?).
But “I don’t belong here” is a phrase we all recognise. Something we all know.
You can call it imposter syndrome if you like – that feeling that one day someone’s going to work out that you’re actually pretty new to all this, and you probably don’t know as much as other people do who might actually have experienced something of the world and whilst we’re on the subject what makes you think you have the right to have a point of view anyway when you should just be minding your privilege and leaning out rather than taking centre stage again and again and again like the bloody egotist you are…
[Whoops, I think my own insecurities might have slipped out for a second there. Do excuse me]
It’s a fact that despite all the work I’ve done, all the conversations, all the learning, I’m still not really feeling I belong in this arena of inclusivity and diversity. Despite the fact that everyone I’ve met along the way have been bloody lovely, and that more recently I’m being asked for my opinion about things, I still don’t feel like I know enough to have an opinion really.
Part of that is because there’s an inherent tension in giving a point of view about a subject which you observe from the outside. I’ve talked before about my privilege and how I see my role in inclusivity conversations in relation to that, but just because I’ve got my head round it doesn’t mean that the tension just goes away. I just have to push through it.
But by doing that, I can find myself in conversations that I don’t just think I know nothing about, I can find myself in conversations that I actually don’t know anything about.
I can’t begin to know how years of feeling like the world is stacked up in the favour of another group that isn’t you slowly starts to build up, getting heavier and heavier with every thoughtless question or comment or look until you’re carrying around the whole thing all the time and it’s just… fucking… exhausting.
I can only imagine what that must be like.
But I can imagine.
I might not know anything about what it is that you’re going through, but I do know that imagination is the start of empathy, and empathy is the start of compassion, and compassion is really the only thing that is going to make our world a better place. That’s what makes us reach out, and connect.
I can only imagine.
And perhaps that, my friend, is what the hell I’m doing here.
So maybe, just maybe, because of that… maybe I actually do belong here too.