Call me Ishmael: Not Belonging is the Greatest Blessing.

I am not bullied, and I never was. In fact, I have led a life of incredible blessing, from the moments before I was born when my parents decided to come to the US to this moment right now, stretched on my bed with a laptop I did not have to pay for lying across my lap.

When I was little I played outside without fear of abduction, joined older kids in starting businesses that would fail but be ever so fun, and tried to make candles out of crayons and a car out of a steering wheel. When I got older, I moved around a bit, met many new people, and learned many new things.

I have no excuse for my “Call me Ishmael” approach to life.

And yet…

I had some hard days. Have. I’m not going to pretend I grew up homeless or went to bed hungry. I know that countless people–maybe every single person on this planet–had harder days than mine. But when you are facing something hard, it’s hard. Hard is hard is hard and that’s the end of it. The fact that it was easier than someone else’s struggle doesn’t mean it was easy.

I was never American and I was never Egyptian and I always walked on the wrong side of the line, whether it was eating a fool sandwich or saying the 2(ha, ح) or 3(ein, ع) wrong. And God knows how afraid I was that I would never fit in. I didn’t want to be like everybodyI just wanted to be like somebody. I just wanted one person to understand how hard it was.

I didn’t like that my irises were so dark that my pupils got lost in there. I didn’t like that my hair was too thick for the braid it was in and my eyebrows joined in the middle but my parents wouldn’t let me pluck them, and my Arabic was rotten but if I was nervous I couldn’t think of the English word for toka — hair tie.

It’s not like there was no diversity. The Korean people all spoke Korean together and the Hispanics all spoke Spanish together, and even to me, but I couldn’t understand a word of it (and in fact grew up to hate the language altogether).  On three different occasions, three different Egyptian men have told me I was too aggressive, one of them being a priest. On countless occasions, teachers and friends told me I was far too shy, too quiet, and too reserved.

Engineers are all Thinkers, but I’m more a Feeler. I liked to read books but conversations with the characters was limited. Christians make friends with other Christians but for some reason I’ve never had a close Christian friend, except one, with whom I argued about Creationism in 5th grade when I could not believe that she did not believe in dinosaurs. And my sisters were (are) kind and perfect souls, but eons older and wiser, or else just sprouting wings when I left the house.

I wanted so badly a Friend, even though I had so many friends. And I knew just where the problem lie… with me. With my too conservative upbringing and my too liberal being and my quiet, scared soul that I could never show to the world because God knew how afraid they would be of something so different as me.

I did not belong in this world. And when I realized that– when I realized that I did not belong, and could never belong, I stopped giving a damn. I took the covers off my soul, and said Here I am. I submitted my soul to the One who owned it and told Him that if He would have me, Here I am. I told Him I sort of want to be an engineer but I sort of want to write books and I really want to own a bookshop and sell books and chocolate, and Here I am. I’m no good at basketball and I’ll always need a stool in the kitchen, and I will lose every arm wrestle, and Here I am. I might say a million sarcastic things in one day, in one hour, but in your hour of need, I will be there for you. Sometimes I’m shy and afraid and sometimes I stomp through this world like Beyonce, and half the time my brain’s not paying attention to the current situation, and that’s just too bad if you happened to try to start a conversation with me, but God, you always have my full attention, for Here I am.

Not belonging? Not fitting in? Of course not. This isn’t your puzzle. And thank God for that.

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