I’ve been thinking a bit about the groups lately. Not necessarily a group of friends, just the groups we find ourselves in (or outside of) throughout our lives. I wrote about my history as a singer, in which I rejected being labelled as one and never felt a part of my school chorus during the ten years I was in the group. I blended into the background, almost as if I were trying to remain unseen and unheard. As if I was afraid of becoming too much a part of something larger. It was something I did a lot growing up. Something I still do now.
I’ve always seen groups as a threat to my independence. In high school, I was obsessed with musical theater, but I never fell into the drama club crew, which I always saw as an incestuous group, all of them dating one another, rotating through boyfriends and girlfriends, singing together in the hallways and wearing the same clothes. In college, it was the same. I saw every play the school produced, I reviewed theater for the university paper, I took playwriting courses and classes that analyzed dramatic works but I never made a friend in that clique. If someone came into class crying that their lighting designer had quit the day of opening night, I’d casually shrug and fill in. I would step into their group for only a moment and quickly fall out of step as soon as I could.
In my professional life, I have, for reasons, I’m trying to figure out, always chosen a path that veered a little off course with what everyone else was doing. While getting my M.F.A. in screenwriting, everyone was focused on writing Hollywood blockbusters or independent tear-jerkers for film, so I immediately threw myself into writing for television. In my first job out of school, I worked with social workers and teachers in a classroom for kids with disabilities. I was the only one who had no intention of going into that field. Then I worked in a company of only 15 people. 13 of them were animators and designers. I was 1 of only 2 who wrote and produced. Now, working in the toy industry, I do what no one else on my team understands, and I watch as they all talk industrial design and cost analysis, then look at me skeptically when I tell them it will take me 2 weeks to write the script.
It has occurred to me that I’ve spent most of my life on the outskirts of a group, observing it, but never fully joining in. My mother has always said, leave it to Melissa to do it differently. I was and, perhaps still am, afraid of being the same as everyone else.
I wonder about that fear. It’s a strange one. It means I’ve never actually been a part of a real group. But now, as I join writing workshops and classes and meet bloggers and writers, I think, this is the group I’ve been looking for all of my life. It’s the only group of people I want to be just like. Only took me 30 years. (Don’t worry, I won’t copy your wardrobe and date your boyfriend behind your back.)
How about you? Have you been a part of a lot of groups throughout your life? Have you felt truly a part of them?