The Big Game

The first Super Bowl party I was ever invited to happened when I was in high school.

The invitation itself was a surprise. The geniality of the other people there–people who generally didn’t have a lot to do with me in school–was even more surprising. I don’t remember who played, let alone who won the big game, but I remember having a good time.

I had a good time because there were different rules involved. Rules so different from what governed normal interactions in school that who I was didn’t make as much of a difference. It was a small group, most of whom I knew from other non-school venues (like church). It was at someone’s house (so there was no chance of uncontrolled viewing). And, perhaps above all else, it was the Super Bowl–one of those big-deal events that lends itself to the blurring of most lines of division (other than those among fans of the opposing teams, at least).

Every playing field has different rules. Those of the classroom were different from those of the lunchroom. Those of the school were different from those of the community in general. And those of the Super Bowl party were different from everything else.

The key to fitting in in different situations is to know the rules for that playing field and playing by them. I’m constantly reminded that it’s the second part of that key that makes the big difference. After all, I’ve known a lot of sets of rules for different situations for a long time. I just choose to not play by them sometimes.

Fitting in isn’t the important thing pop culture and politics try to tell us it is. Without a doubt, it can be useful and affirming. But it can also very easily become and end in and of itself. When that happens, personal growth becomes stunted and we stand the chance of losing ourselves in the name of our pursuit.

I agreed to go to that long-ago Super Bowl party for two reasons. First, it was being hosted by a girl I had a good sized crush on (not that rare of an occurrance). Second, she actually invited me (a rare thing back then). There were times I wanted desperately to fit in, this party was almost one of them.

Once at it, though, I learned that, because the rules were different, I didn’t have to make an effort to fit in.

Even though I didn’t make the connection at the time, looking back situations like that–ones where we don’t have to strain who we are in order to fit in–are the ones we should seek out most during our developing years. For me, that didn’t happen and I spent a good deal of time miserable and confused.

We’re all cut out to be good in different situations. It may take us some time to find those situations. And even when we find them, there may still be some work involved to smooth out the rough edges. Without question there will be places where you feel more at home and others where you won’t. Using that as a baseline guide, you can begin to figure yourself out.

It really is all a big game. And just like a professional athlete, we’re always learning the play book and making notes on the field conditions and the other teams. The difference between football and fitting in, though, is that with the latter everyone can come out a winner.

Why? Because when you really get down to it, we’re all on the same team.

Back in high school, very, very few people have any clue where they fit in. That’s why it’s so divisive. We were all lost and funbling around.

For a few hours, and with the help of a few pizzas and some wings, anyone can feel like they belong.

Once you’ve felt that once, you kind of spend the rest of your life trying to feel it gain.

And that is an attainable goal.

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