The last time I think a really felt I belonged in this world I was seven years old. My life was simple, predictable. The world inside and outside of my rural Loveland, Colorado home allowed endless opportunity to let my imagination run wild. I was safe, warm, fed, and secure.
My first day of kindergarten, my mom walked me up the dirt road to the bus stop. My memories aren’t specific, but I do recall wearing a brand new outfit and inhaling the distinct fumes of school bus exhaust.
We had recently moved and I hadn’t been able to attend the first day of school. I do recall feeling out of sorts when learning the classroom routine and this thing called recess.
I was excited to learn and the stacks of handwriting paper, sharpened pencils, and array of crayons made it all the more amazing.
Having just moved to the area, I also had to make new friends. Though I have a few memories of feeling like an outsider, I eventually found a place with a group of girls.
Still, there was a little part of me that felt I didn’t belong. That I was the odd one in the bunch. Looking back, it was probably because they all seemed more comfortable with each other due to having known each other before kindergarten.
Over the next year, my social experiences expanded to birthday parties, summer camping with other families near Horsetooth Mountain, and playing with the neighborhood children. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being an outsider.
And friending boys is an entirely different matter I will save for another post!
My mom became the local Bluebird leader (I believe this was a level below Girlscouts). Perhaps she sensed my struggle to form adequate friendships. Or she was feeling restless mothering three daughters in the Colorado mountains.
I did finally connect with a gal I eventually called my best friend because I could always count on her being my playground buddy. Allison and I spent a lot of time on the monkey bars. Her pale purple courderoy overalls and walnut brown pixie haircut came to symbolize simple, feminine confidence.
She didn’t make me feel out of place and didn’t tease me like the other kids did. We just played, talked about whatever first-grade girls talked about in 1980s, and got plenty of exercise.
I didn’t think about the future or that anything would change besides our grade level.
Then, sometime during the first grade, I heard that one of the other girl’s parents were getting divorced. I’m not sure I even understood what that meant, but for the first time fear about my own parents’ future crept into my heart and mind.
I don’t remember being afraid like that before. It wasn’t like being afraid of the dark, or afraid I’d get in trouble because I cut the hair off my sister’s Barbie doll.
It was a deep fear of change and the unknown. What if my parents got divorced?
Unfortunately, before second grade would begin, I’d experience the answer to that question.
See How My Parents Divorce Led Me to Writing a Novel at Age 11 for the rest of that part of the story.
A Second School for Second Grade
After my own parents’ divorce and moving into town with my mom and two younger sisters, I not only had to adjust to a life without my daddy in the house, but I had to adjust to a new school and yet another challenge of making friends.
There were socioeconomic factors as well, including my first exposure to socializing with other children from broken homes as well as children from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
I could list a hundred memories of the three and a half years I spent there, but that’s not the point. I didn’t feel like I belonged their either.
Despite being invited to multiple sleepovers at the house of a very kind upper class girl, the girls I spent the most time with were other outsiders. As I write, more memories surface, but I digress.
Still, I struggled to build a true friendships and the sense of not belonging solidified.
Moving As a Way of Life
To condense the next decade of my life, my dad moved to California where he met his second wife. This led to a series of events that included me and my sisters moving to the Santa Cruz mountains and my mom and her boyfriend moving to the Sierra Nevada foothills about a three-hour drive north of Santa Cruz.
Both my dad’s new marriage (including two step-brothers) and my mom’s live-in boyfriend came with the added exposure to drug and alchohol addicted adults, anger issues and fighting.
As a result, my sisters and I hopped back and forth between two high-stress households. This also included changing schools, and of course, trying to make friends somewhere in the mix.
From Fact to Fiction
My sisters and I collected enough emotional wounds during that time to create a foundation for a dozen novels.
However, I’ve selected only a few to mark the key wounds that form the positive and negative character traits, and subsequent fears my fictional sisters face in A Cord of Three.
The particular wound of Not Belonging, I’ve assigned to Rachel, as she’s the sister I identify with the most. Much like myself, her early marriage and focus on mothering many children allowed her to create her own sense of belonging within the walls of her home.
Her faith also gives her a sense of always belonging among the Body of Christ, a pillar that remains despite her struggle to belong alongside her sisters.
Wounds to Wins Series
I created this blog post series to explore the real-life experiences my sisters and I had and how I’ve used them to create fictional characters, their emotional wounds, and how each woman came to overcome the wound with a win of some kind in my WIP A CORD OF THREE.
My go-to resource, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus and its accompanying resources at One Stop for Writers have proven priceless in my journey of developing this story and will undoubtedly accompany me as I delve into future projects. I don’t receive compensation for mentioning or linking to these resources. I’m simply giving credit where credit is due.