Do I Belong?

Updated: Jan 12, 2020

|Author: Mike|

The question barged its way into the front of my mind as I searched for a uniting theme among my experiences thus far. At first I felt surprised by its sudden presence, then disappointed. But yes, of course my shadow would find me here in India too. It seems to have taken two forms: one social, one professional.

On day 2, my roommate and I took a morning stroll around our block to get to know the neighborhood. My gut reaction tells me I’m terribly out of place. Unfamiliar faces, smells, landscapes, languages, and lifestyles are enough to make even a sunshine-lover like myself miss the dreary Seattle winter. And yet, a closer look reveals common threads woven between my life and the life I encounter here in Bangalore. On day 4, as I walked up to the roof to wake my jet lagged body, I looked and saw a few neighbors exercising on the adjacent rooftop. The warm morning sun greeted us both. I am learning some universals to our human experience that bind us together. Sun, exercise, and community just to name a few. I hope to recognize more and more of these commonalities during my time here.

Do I belong? But what could I possibly contribute here? With how many others throughout history and undoubtedly in this very room do I raise these same questions? It plagues even the brightest and most qualified minds, even those who puffed their chests and wrote the book on feigning confidence. I’ve had enough conversations with my idols to take solace in knowing I’m not alone. But I wonder what world we would live in if self-doubt was not a possibility for our human brain. What lifesaving ideas would have come to fruition were it not for the paralyzing fear of failure?

I’ve dealt with these questions enough to know they’re toxic and filled with untruth. Dr. Neumann reminded me yesterday one of the best things we all have to offer as outsiders is a fresh perspective on the problems of Bangalore. I remind myself I’ve received years of world class education and months of specific preparation for this program. Plus we’re not expected to solve any Grand Challenges while we’re here. What a relief! If only our rationality and emotions were always perfectly in sync. Realistically I know belonging takes time, and imposter syndrome is only conquered through experience. Although shadows don’t go away, over time with practice they can be ignored, freeing up brain space to make room for something better.

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