I never really felt I belonged. Anywhere. Until one day I began to notice why and how I could maybe, just maybe one day, find belonging.
Sure. Maybe as someone who appears to be ‘white’ and from a ‘nice family’ I ‘should’ have a sense of belonging, be grateful for my privilege and find somewhere to sit nicely and not complain about feeling included. But the truth was, I simply didn’t feel I had a place where I felt truly seen, as myself and ultimately, included.
I was born out of wedlock into a ‘nice’ and kind home of my mother’s Eastern European family who saw that I was fed, clothed and to school on time. Outside of those basic necessities, emotional support in the early 1980’s was to be found elsewhere. My mother was initially shamed by her father, my grandfather for having gotten pregnant and not being married. Eventually, my grandfather accepted my mother & me so we are allowed in the house to be raised by my mother’s mother and her mother.
I am effectively a matriarchal baby with much love from 3 amazing generations of women. Yet I still wasn’t sure I belonged with these kind folks. My father, for his small part, wasn’t available for child rearing nor did my mother want his ‘overbearing’ Italian/ Spanish family involved. To this day, I wish I could have had more time with those loud folks bc maybe, I would have felt more included in that tribe. And even more so, my mother wanted to raise me in the guit-light Luthern church and not in the seemingly domineering worship that was my dad’s Jewish / Catholic roots. Sure, there were certainly lots of options on where I could be included but not really any one space where I felt HOME or even really deeply connected.
I’ll pause here to insert the idea of INCLUSIVITY for femmes, thought leaders, industry disruptors and women in business that we aim to have established on the LBI Backstage Pass. Historically, we have been told to play small, be quiet and just allow the status quo to be, even if it has us feeling less than included, sitting on our hands and accepting that stupid af statement ‘it is what it is’!!
The notion of making space to include ALL of us is truly radical. It’s honoring each person as we are, not as we could be if we were different. It may seem simple but as it turns out implementing inclusivity for one self or for the many is a hard job because it actually means leaning into community but first that community needs to be welcoming. It’s kind of a classic example of chicken vs egg, cart vs horse. As business activists, I suggest that we can do this together AND first we need to understand our own roots of being, feeling and having an included sense of self in order to find, share and make space for others.
I wanted to be open with my own upbringing to share that it may be possible that many folks, like myself, didn’t know what inclusivity realy meant until I found it for myself. As I began to discover for myself, I decided I wanted to make space, build bigger stages and bust open doors for ANY and ALL folks who have ever felt the same about their own sense of belonging.
I know that there remain many, many reasons for the lack of inclusivity which include but are not limited to racism, misogyny, bigotry and a whole list of -isms that one can spend their entire life attempting to dismantle. Please know that in no way do I consider my not being included the same as yours. The point I’d like to make is that we can find empathy through our own experiences, albeit the experiences are different but similar in the feelings they can create.
As I entered grade school and on into high school, my identity was stewed in a variety of places that really never felt like me. My mother sent my sister and I to a Christian day school that was essentially free if we were members of the church. Not exactly church going Jews, I found a lot of the teachings of this school to be really archaic and confusing when taught just before science class. As a result, I often found myself in trouble at school because I would ask many questions that would ultimately land me in the principal’s office. I saw the ‘trouble’ I was causing to not be problematic as asking questions shouldn’t be a crime, right? The questions were viewed as disruptions & asking why the status quo was the status quo wasn’t the sort of thing teachers appreciated.
High school wasn’t much better with its express lane socialization and mean girl groupies around every corner. Though I was social in many groups, my peers on the soccer team didn’t really embrace me for the mash up of ethnic convergence I was beginning to see myself as. Becky always asked me why my dad never came to the games. Back off Becky!
I did feel somewhat accepted by my theater nerd friends as my quirky self but not entirely the slightly queer, bi sexual I was blooming into. And my fella student council members saw my outgoing nature as helpful but sometimes too loud and often asked if I could tone it down some!! I’m tiiiiiiring but it was and still is generally a futile attempt. PS that loud voice got me elected as Student Council president, sorry not sorry.
Then I got to college and learned about learning. I came to understand that the small world I was raised in with limited emotional bandwidth and paid for on food stamps could be changed for access to more information, more community and even more sense of belonging. I began to see inclusivity as a feeling and not a destination . I began to understand my early days as a ‘problem child’ were really just training grounds to be a thought leader, industry disruptor, and ultimately, a business activist.
And now as a woman in business, particularly in the business of helping to dismantle oppressive systems by building better ways of doing things, I recognize this ongoing process of finding belonging with oneself so I can continue to build welcoming spaces for others. We as human beings are social creatures that require community and the inherent sense of belonging that I would argue is in our souls’ longing. I’ve felt the lack of this much of my life and am eager to find abundance of it as we build more inclusive ways of doing business as the change makers we are! After all, we all deserve to be here.
So I leave this entry with a question for the reader: Do you live more quietly than you’d secretly wish to? What have you done today to question the status quo? How can we together see each other as value add to this incredible world we get to live in AND also fulfill our own wildest dreams without excluding? I have some theoretical answers to these questions and I would love to keep the conversation going with you, dear reader.
If you are interested in talking more about your feelings of belonging, of being included and advocating for inclusivity for our world, I want to talk to you. I mean it. Please join our larger coverations happening 24/7 on the LBI Backstage Pass by sharing your thought leading insights on this social media platform built by women for women. I want to connect with you directly so once on the platform, please send me an DM and let’s keep this conversation going.
Love, Rose Kaz