The Rapidian

Getting in, fitting in and having fun too

Sometimes the reason we don't enjoy more may be because we don't believe we'll fit in where the fun is.
Underwriting support from:

Be like water

"Water doesn't care how high a wall is,

if it wants to get somewhere

it will go over, through, or around--

but it will get where it wants to go.

Water doesn't worry about cliques,

it just does what it wants."

This article is about fitting in. It's also about finding a way in to enjoy where the fun is.

Ever thought about that? Ever thought about wanting to go to an event or participate in an activity only to believe you would stand out, that you would automatically be excluded?

Perhaps you thought the people at the event or doing the activity would be many shades lighter or darker than you. Perhaps you thought they would disapprove of how you live your life. Maybe you believed they would just dislike you because you were raised in an area they wouldn't walk in at night.  

"Perhaps" and "maybe" add up to you not having any fun. Here's what I mean: having recently joined the Grand Rapids Community Media Center and its affiliate programs, I was tooling around in the events calendar when I came across something which caught my eye. The event was called "Let's Get Critical."  Based on the short description, it was going to be a discussion about how to critique art and the benefits of doing it right. That's not what caught my eye though. What caught my eye was the sub heading, Artists as Entrepreneurs class. 

Artists as Entrepreneurs class, sounds like it could be fun. But would anyone there be like me? I thought. When I thought like me I meant--black like me.  

And there's the rub. I see tons of events which sound interesting, sound like they could enriching. Some sound like loads of fun but I often wonder if I would stand out too much for comfort. And the result? I stay home.

Ever done that to yourself? Ever talked yourself out of a good time, because of fear of acceptance?

I almost did this day. I almost stayed home even though the event spoke to my artistic side as a writer and my entrepreneurial side as a businessman. Let's get Critical -Artist as Entrepreneurs, the title said, and I was going to be darned if I passed up this possible good time.

So I went. I pushed past all the negative thoughts about being the only person of color in the room; I pushed past my own mental chatter of what people might think--I went to learn and listen and enjoy.

And you know what? Turns out I wasn't the only person of color, and I wasn't cast aside because I believed the people there wouldn't walk in the neighborhood I grew up in. In fact, one of the participants told me they live one block from where I grew up! 

And to think I was going to avoid this potential fun, this possible good time, this conceivable learning experience all because I thought I wouldn't fit in.

So the question is this: what can you do to never have a similar feelings, or rather, to push past the fear of not fitting in and get out to activities and events which could enrich your soul and add fun to your life?

I can't remember who said it, but I love this quote: be like water--find a way in. To get to events which could be loads of fun, to enjoy activities even though nobody looks like us perhaps we need to be like water--and find a way in.  

Perhaps I'm the only one who feels this way, perhaps I alone fear times of not fitting in--but I don't think so.This next story illustrates my point. 

I ran into a high school alum the other day. I hadn't seen him in years. He told me he had been in Europe performing his art but had settled back in Grand Rapids some time ago. He went on to talk about how cliques in Grand Rapids seemed to exclude him from finding work here and continuing his craft. I said to him, "water doesn't care how high a wall is, if it wants to get somewhere it will go over, through, or around--but it will get where it wants to go. Water doesn't worry about cliques, it just does what it wants."

What if we could be like that? Would we ever keep ourselves from going wherever we wanted? Would we worry about the color or background of other participants opinions of us? Heck no. As does water, we would find a way to get in. It would just go and have a good time. I know I'm speaking for water here, but I just like its style. 

That's what I did by coming to the Artists as Entrepreneurs event: I pushed through the fear of not fitting in. I was like water. I went and had a great time. In our discussion we talked about art, artists, and how to critique and write about what we see in a piece. We touched on photography, artistic interpretation, and the artist as entrepreneur. There were some people with degrees and pedigrees and some with none. Everyone was fitting in--fitting in because they came. No cliques, not clatter, no barriers.  

Though true I was not the majority in terms of hue, I was like everyone else because I came and saw and participated. If you do that, how can you not get in, fit in, and have fun?

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Hi Randy,

Please believe me, you are not the only one! I felt (and continue to often feel) that way also. This event was really helpful to push me out of that fear, and has been a catalyst to get me attending additional local events. Although I often still feel like "the odd one out" at the events, and I am still overlooked when I attempt to contribute, I am trying to push my way through anyway. I really enjoyed meeting you and hearing the perspective you brought to Let's Get Critical. And I really appreciate this article!

I felt the same way because I'm shy and had the misconception that this might be a cliquey group. I'm glad I was proven wrong. I really appreciate that there are creative and motivated people fostering conversation such as this, especially in my own neighborhood. 

As a person of color, I often feel like I stand out, too, so I really appreciate your piece. Very heartening, and I'll be keeping an eye out for your Rapidian contributions.

Sometimes, what stops me from going to events is feeling like I know how it'll all roll out. Based on how I feel, based on the crowd I know will be there or where it is, I assume it'll play out a specific way, and sometimes it does. But I forget that there are so many variables beyond my control, and for every time that things play out the way I think they will, there's another time that was thrilling and unexpected, and I'm grateful for whatever little thing extra pushed me over the edge to get out that day.

Really, thanks for sharing, Randy. Very meaningful.