I canít think of a time I havenít loved jigsaw puzzles. Thereís something so cathartic about separating the edges from the inside pieces and slowly patching all of it together, usually over the period of a few days. The more pieces the better. I love a good challenge as much as cats love stalking birds ĖĖ is there anything more rewarding than seeing your hard work come to fruition?
Every now and then, Iíll buy a 1,500-piece puzzle from a thrift store knowing I might finish the whole thing and find one or two pieces missing. Thatís a frustrating feeling, mostly because I understand how it feels to be one of those missing pieces.
Iíve never really felt like I fit in anywhere, like Iím the missing piece of a puzzle, desperately trying to find a place to fit. And when I do fit some place, I canít help but wonder if Iím forcing myself in. I can turn myself around again and again trying for the perfect fit, but maybe thatís not my place. Maybe I donít have any place at all.
In case youíre wondering, I realize how exceptionally angsty that sounds. What could have possibly happened to make me empathize with the missing piece from a jigsaw puzzle? Well, I never really had that many friends growing up. I lived in my head, writing stories and worrying everyone hated me because of that awkward thing I said one time five years ago. I was a bundle of nerves and graduated from high school with approximately two friends.
As the years went on, I never found a group where I really fit. I joined and quit a sorority in less than two years. I became best friends with people I havenít spoken to in ages. As each friendship ended, I felt more and more disheartened. Why build relationships when they crumble so easily? Would I ever find a group of people to call home, or would I be a loner forever?
The turning point came when I realized I was a loner, and that was perfectly OK. Itís not that I donít have a wonderful support system ĖĖ†Iím lucky to have friends and family who happily listen to my neurotic ravings. My husband Gideon has stepped up and supported me more than anyone, especially over the past year when Iíve been struggling with the uncertainty of what the future holds for us. If all I ever have is the two of us, I realized, Iím a pretty lucky person. That must be how it feels to fit somewhere.
Then something wonderful happened. Gideon and I developed a close friendship that led to both of us being a part of a group. For the first time in my life, Iíve been invited to bridal showers and crafting days and camping trips. In truth, Iím still fighting with the feeling of not fitting in. Iím worried itís all going to fall apart the same way everything else has, but giving into that feeling would certainly be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Iíve realized Iím not a missing piece to any puzzle. None of us are. Thereís no such thing as a perfect fit ĖĖ†only people connecting with other people, often imperfectly. Sure, I might say something awkward every now and then. I might not have everything in common with everyone. But isnít that the beauty of being part of such a diverse world?
Weíve all got differences, and weíve all got something in common at the same time. Perhaps our commonality lies in searching for a place to fit, in hoping for the kind of human connection that gives us hope. The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more comfortable weíll be connecting with others.
Thatís the closest any of us will ever get to the perfect fit. Iím still working toward it, but Iím feeling better about myself with each passing day. If you can relate to what Iíve written here, I hope you know weíve all got a place where we fit.
And often, itís right where we are.