In high school, I was involved in a Jewish youth group called, B’nai Brith Youth Organization, or BBYO. According to its website, “BBYO is the leading pluralistic teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. ”
But to me, it was a lot more. During my Freshman and Sophomore years, I went to a lot of activities that my local chapter put together. It was mostly a way to socialize with friends I already had and to hang out with cute older boys. I kid you not. But as I became more involved, it became so much more for me. In high school, I was constantly moving from one group to another. I definitely felt like a loner (although I would be surprised if anyone ever described me as such). But I was always trying to find a group where I felt like I belonged. I’m sure everyone does this in high school.
When I found myself as a senior with most of my friends having graduated and headed off to college, my presence in BBYO increased. I became very active on the regional level, which basically meant I spent a lot of time on the Merritt Parkway driving to somewhere in Southern Connecticut with my friends E. and S. (I also spent a lot of time on AOL Instant Messenger with these friends which is actually where the handle on this blog comes from in case you were curious) But it was also the year that I finally figured out why I had become so involved in this group. Because I was finally feeling like I belonged. And not only like I belonged, but like I could be myself.
It would be a few more years before I discovered another place where this feeling came back in a similar manner. Library school. While my experience of going back to school has had its ups and downs (written about extensively here), I remember having this sense, over the past two years, that “hey, these are my people.” And I am not alone in that. I talk to library school students in my program and through social media who all seem to express a similar sentiment, “this is where I belong.”
I spent the past weekend in NYC with my closest friend, T. He is definitely someone that makes me feel like I belong. When we met Freshman year of college I absolutely had that feeling of “oh you definitely get me.” We’ve been, almost, inseparable every since.
I was also down in NYC for a friend’s 30th birthday. A friend from BBYO. Through the magical world of Facebook, these connections from BBYO, that I had long thought were gone due to my lack of keeping in touch, came flooding back a few years ago. And it makes me so happy. Because, I have found, that I still feel like I belong with many of these friends. Like I can be myself. And, often, like no time has passed. Saturday night, at this birthday party, I found myself having conversations with others about how they found the same sort of sense of belonging in BBYO. And how much that was needed in their lives at the time.
As I get ready to graduate tomorrow with many who are “just like me”, I am so grateful for the places and people in my world that have allowed me to be who I am, to not be afraid of that, and where I am welcomed with open arms.