On Identity: You Belong Here
Do you ever think about how no one chose to be here? No one submitted an application to exist. Our existence was chosen for us. Therefore, no one has more or less right to be here than you. You have a right to take up space. You are enough, the very essence of who you are is more than enough.
I understand this principle now. But I haven’t always. Here’s one story about misunderstanding my identity.
This year every family with school-aged children was forced to dip their toes into the realm of home education. I had the joy of growing up homeschooled, but when I was young, it was largely looked down upon. It had only been legalized in Iowa shortly before my parents started. A few years before that, some parents were actually being arrested for attempting it. It was a tense time for young parents (and their children) interested in alternatives to the public education system.
My siblings and I were homeschooled all the way through high school. It was a wonderful experience. I’m so thankful my parents were willing and able to give us a unique learning experience.
But it left scars in some ways. I didn’t feel fully accepted in society, didn’t feel welcome to engage with the community because of the way people treated us. When I got to college, I wanted to get good grades to prove my academic ability, and perhaps, earn a feeling like I was equal and belonged in this world. The, further along, I got in school, the more I became obsessed with it. In my last few semesters, while studying for finals, I would have self-destructive thoughts. The possibility of not doing well on the final and not getting the highest grade was so painful that it was appealing to think of not existing at all.
I was placing a completely unhealthy level of identity on my grades. And, by the way, if you are struggling with something similar to this right now, I encourage you to talk to someone you trust about it. I was too embarrassed to admit these things while they were happening, but it would have been helpful to let someone else share the burden and speak some truth into my fears.
I ended up being successful at my mission to be a good student. I won some awards and graduated among the top students of my class. But my understanding of identity has shifted since then. It’s taken a long time and it’s been a gradual shift, but through subsequent failures, I’ve come to understand that you have value and worth that is beyond all measure of anything you do or don’t do. Whether you succeed or fail, whether you are educated in traditional or non-traditional ways, you have worth. Whether you seriously mess up or feel so confused that you can’t figure out the next step, you have worth.
The next time you are tempted to feel like everyone else has more right to exist than you, think of life like driving a car. What I love about driving is that all the cars are equal on the road. No matter what birth order you are, no matter your level of confidence, no matter how self-disciplined you are, no matter what kind of car you drive, no matter the mistakes you’ve made, when you pull up to a four-way stop, you get to go when it’s your turn to go.
My prayer for you is that when you’re feeling down, you will come to the deep understanding that you have the right to take up space and to take your turn in life, just like at a four-way stop in your car.
Beautiful story and beautiful dress in the photo of the woman sitting and drinking coffee. Is it available somewhere?
Thankyou for reminding me, that each of us is a precious, unrepeatable, holy gift into this world.
So well said, Hannah.
Thank you for sharing this story. I have always felt that everyone has the right to exist, and as exactly who they are. It is sometimes hard for children to understand this when there is so much competition and cliques in our society. Homeschooling helps to shield children from that at their earliest ages. I will read this story to my homeschooled grandchildren and we will discuss it. Thank you, Sarah Kirsten, for expressing this cherished belief of mine so clearly. We do all belong.
Hi Marian, I wonder what the homeschool kids are experiencing these days. I think it’s more accepted now, but I imagine kids still pick up on the “otherness” they feel. Would be curious what your grandkids have to say about the article!
This one really hit home for me. Many thanks for the vulnerability and honesty. ?
Thank you so much for sharing this, Zara. Sending you a big warm hug.
Sarah, thank you so so much for telling this story. I was also homeschooled growing up and I know it’s tough being a trailblazer. I have asked myself the question of
“why do I exist?” or thought “maybe my existence is a mistake“ many times, especially lately and had the feeling that I don’t belong. I’ve had to fight the urge to become small to take up the least amount of space throughout my life. But the reminder that ALL exist, not by their own choosing and that our value is inherent is very encouraging to me.
For me it also helps to remember that the same people who are critical of you for doing things differently are probably criticizing from their place of comfort and normalcy. All the while, you are the one courageously hacking through the underbrush because you see a good thing on the other side that others can’t see, but that keeps you going.
Kind of like the story of the man who sold everything to buy the land with a pearl of great price hidden in it?
Uh! Rebecca this is actually making my eyes tear up. It’s so true. We make choices that not everyone understands, but we do it because we see something worth pursuing. Thanks for this picture.
Thank you! I normally do not comment on many things but this one really hit home. You are appreciated.
Greer, thanks so much for commenting!
Reading your story was a wonderful way to start my Sunday morning. Thank you for sharing
Oh wonderful to hear, Patricia!
A moving essay. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing that!
Thank you! I needed this so very much. Blessings and stay safe.
Oh so glad this came at a good time for you Anita! Thanks for sharing.
THIS WAS A LOVELY STORY, THANK YOIU
Thank you Sandie <3
Thank you for putting to voice what many may feel. You are enough. We are enough.
Thanks for sharing this, Mary. We are enough, more than enough 🙂
Thank you, I needed to hear these words today about homeschooling, as I am a single mom who homeschools my 9yo son and have felt alone while I had to fight some stigmas for years. And also for your words about having the right to take up space and being enough, personally. I bet I am not the only one. Take care!
Hi Briana, good job for undertaking the big task of homeschooling! I know it’s not a good fit for everyone, but I really thrived under homeschooling education and love to hear about other people homeschooling their kiddos too. I’m sorry you are still having to fight stigmas about it. Thanks for sharing your story.
Great story. Beautifully put and thanks for sharing.
Hi Louis, thanks for this kind note.