A Place to Fit

Oct 26, 2016 by

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Last week, I described my writing community as “my place to fit.” Here is the post I promised.

Many of my author friends have said that when they attended their first writers’ conference they immediately thought I’ve found my people! I had a similar reaction, but for me it was, I finally found where I fit.

I’d been searching for it my entire life.

This struggle with fitting probably had a lot to do with being the first visually impaired kid in school, where for the first three years teachers couldn’t decide whether to educate me like a blind student or a slow learner (which I wasn’t; I just couldn’t read the board). I had to wear dark glasses in order to see in sunlight, sat in the front row even though my last name began with L and still couldn’t read the board, and needed classmates to tell me which crayon was which. When it came to playground sports, I did okay at hopscotch but made a terrible tether ball partner. I’m pretty sure that my teachers bribed kickball team captains to pick me second to last so I wouldn’t get my feelings hurt.

I always had friends, but I never felt like part of a group. I can now admit that I was a little bit… strange, and probably not because of low vision. I felt a much closer kinship with fictional characters than with real people. Reading was a challenge because of the whole small print thing, but once my grandma turned me on to books in 5th grade I made it work, sometimes by skipping the boring parts or taking advantage of those who liked to read out loud. I wanted to BE Laura Ingalls, Mary Lennox, Sara Crewe, and Anne Frank. I chose a plastic padlock from the toy chest after a dental visit hoping the key would transform our backyard playhouse into a secret garden. I knew it wouldn’t, but it added to the magic of play. My best friend Jennifer also lived in a world of books, so we spent very little time in reality.

childhood-booksI still have my childhood copies! Note how loved to death they are.

In high school I discovered drama and public speaking. I thought I’d found my group. But when I started college with a plan to major in theater, and traded glasses for contacts I discovered that I was the only girl in class who didn’t know how to cuss with conviction. Something felt off. I loved acting and was apparently good at it, but I didn’t fit in the acting world. I decided to become a teacher instead, got my first preschool teaching job, and discovered that I really stunk at working with kids. I didn’t fit there either!

Where did I fit?

Where did I fit? Click To Tweet

In 1995, I attended my first writers’ conference and met people who I image also chose the plastic padlock in hopes of finding The Secret Garden. They talked about fictional characters as if they really existed and would rather buy books than new clothes. They were quirky and creative, insecure and not afraid to admit it, gifted but humble, transparent and welcoming. I couldn’t wait to go back! Every time I did, I felt at home, even when fears and insecurities hit, because I was surrounded by friends who understood them. We spoke the same language, got each other’s humor, had the same compulsion to write things down, and as my friend Marci says, had “the same Dad.” Each of us was equally as awestruck by the idea that the God of the universe, who didn’t need our talents to accomplish His work, would have something to say through us.

One year I roomed with a woman named Jane, who read me a poem she’d written about her search for “A Place to Fit.” It made me cry. I wasn’t the only one.

The more people I get to know, the more convinced I am that writers aren’t alone in this. We all need a place to fit. A group that gets us. Friends who speak our language, bring out our best, and free us to be ourselves. We all need to hear, “I chose that crazy plastic padlock too! I still have it somewhere.” We all need a place where we don’t feel weird, or where our brand of weirdness is celebrated. A place where we feel confident that “This is what God created me for.”

mh-2016 1915594_10209224346272116_98560636559756577_nI couldn’t find one of Xochi from Mount Hermon, probably because she took the pictures.

Have you found your place to fit? Where did you finally find it? How has your search for belonging inspired you to draw others in so they feel like they have a place to fit too?

Note: I know the padlock at the top of this post isn’t plastic. I chose it because it looks like one that opens something mysterious. As a kid, I would have been all over that.

How has your search for belonging inspired you to draw others in so they feel like they have a… Click To Tweet
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  1. Peggy Cavnar

    That padlock has a great looking KEY Jeanette! You of all people “sotra got” me. It is tough to be the odd kid. I was one all my life. I was lost in stories too. How many stories have you written so far? Any characters like you? I have let some of my characters be deaf or ill. You would be mad if you saw my pile of movellas and how many I have tossed. I am glad you are doing better than four yeas ago! What an unexpected way our lives turned out. Hugs to you and the boys.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      I tried to write a story with a character like me and place her in the early 20th century. She had the same vision problem but a very different upbringing. In a time period when anyone with an impairment was considered unfit, I struggled to come up with something that wasn’t either depressing or unrealistic. So I stopped hiding behind fictional characters and started writing from personal experience.

      Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you for throwing out some of your novellas. I have stories that I would never want to publish now. Keep writing! Hugs back to you.

  2. You are definitely one of my kind of people and I pray for you every day.

  3. I likedt that story you started writing and hope you finish it someday! Our writers’ group has been one of my most At Home places to be, and I remember the sense of awe I felt on my one Mount Hermon experience at being with a big group of writers! It’s like sharing a common language.

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