This is story from Gary about belonging and our need to belong:

Times were hard growing up on that council estate, but I knew I was loved by my family; I was lucky in that respect.

It was a tough time for me at secondary school. I only realise now, decades later, how much that time in my life affected me.

I knew I wasn’t the typical kid on a council estate. I passed the 11-Plus and got a place at the Lancaster Royal Grammar School. Consistently placed in the top 2% of UK schools, this privilege was lost on me.

My hard working building site Labourer Dad drove a Polski Fiat, (similar to a Lada). It was a fair old walk from home to school, but I never wanted a lift because if the kids from school saw the car, I knew I’d be ridiculed. They knew we were ‘poor’ and couldn’t afford all the school trips abroad, fancy sports kit and donation requests to charity. I didn’t fit in there.

So I rebelled. An outlier. (I’ve rebelled against authority and The Establishment ever since)

I hated that school blazer. That fucking grammar school crest.

Because I was the only kid on the council estate to pass for the grammar school, wear the grammar school badge and go to an all boys school, the kids where I lived teased me about being a “posh twat” and being a “gay boy”. I felt I didn’t fit in there either.

I remember walking home from school on hot summers days wearing my fur lined blue snorkel jacket, fully zipped up, hood up. Sweltering inside. Hiding my school blazer. The walk of shame. The Grammar School was a community that I didn’t fit in with. I didn’t want to fit in with the community at the council estate either. I didn’t belong. It was a lonely time. Especially at that age.

This story is one of the haves versus have-nots. But there are other instances later in life when I didn’t belong, due to clashes in values.

Once in my work life I was pressured into launching a revolutionary new saddle that I personally didn’t think was safe; I refused. Instinctively. I returned my shares in the company. I lost thousands of pounds. It felt like, and it was proven to be, the right thing to do. The company and the product failed. At the time I didn’t feel I belonged. It was a hard not fitting in and being the only one who thought and did this. I felt lonely yet again. Afterwards, with the passage of time, I was so glad that I didn’t belong. Yes, there was ‘fear’ at the time, but there was also courage.

We all need to belong.

Belonging is a key pillar of a meaningful life.

Watch: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.

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