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How Long Have You Been Wearing That Coat?

I never had any groomsmen in my wedding.

And stating this publicly for the first time… I saw that as an embarrassment until very recently.

When asked by others how come not, I did provide them with an honest, if not direct, response: It was one of the best decisions we could have ever made. But that honesty only comes from retrospect. Yes, it was a good decision because my wife and I have seen so many instances where the wedding party is often the crux of the wedding, so yeah, I’ll still tell people it’s something they should seriously consider.

But that’s not why I didn’t have any groomsmen. No… the reality of the matter is that I didn’t have any friends close enough to me that I thought would care to be groomsmen. And my wedding day validated that thought. Several of the people I would have asked to be groomsmen, including the best man candidate, didn’t show up at all.

It cut deep, and I haven’t talked to most of those people since.

Now, you’re probably wondering if it’s because I’m an asshole, and I don’t think that’s it at all. (At least, I think I get along really well with most people!) While I might not be a jerk, I have always seen myself as an outsider. A weirdo. Somebody… other.

I have a lot of interests, and growing up in my small town world, those interests didn’t package well into one cohesive unit. I’m a gamer, musician, philosopher, hipster, athlete, technologist, and a redneck, just to name a few. But the boundaries that those labels set amidst themselves always left me sort of on the outside.

Those coats never fit quite right, if you will.

And truthfully, it’s not for lack of trying. Just like any other kid in high school, I badly wanted to fit in. I didn’t like being the outsider, so desperately seeking belonging from my peers. While I’d find friendships here and there, they all seemed to fall apart because for me, the coats I was handed were always too bulky or too short or the sleeves didn’t fit quite right.

For the longest time, I saw myself as a pessimist. I wondered if I had this “negative” view on the world because I couldn’t squeeze into any of the coats thrown my way. So naturally, I thought the problem was with me, that I wasn’t trying hard enough. Or simply wasn’t good enough.

It’s not been until recently that my perspective has begun to shift. Through the wisdom of people like Rob Bell, Ram Dass, and Kapil Gupta, I’ve started to see that those coats are, well… coats.

They are not me in my present moment. They never were me. And they never will be me.

Let’s talk about what these coats are for a minute, because I’m sure that’s probably a question you’re asking yourself. The coats are everything that you think makes you, you. You may even perceive them to be you, when in reality they are a facade. They are the ways in which we were socialized growing up, the ways that our friends and family tell us we need to be, and the ways that society tries to sell us on TV.

For you, that might be the small town idea that you grow up, get married, have kids, make a living doing something you probably don’t care about, and passing on this mindset to the next generation. For somebody else, that might be the pursuit of a faith of a god you are told is all loving… so long as you follow everything this old book does as later reinterpreted by people over and over and over again. *wink*

So the reality is that you’ve probably been wearing these coats your entire life. Maybe you’ve picked up some different layers throughout time, but from the moment you take your first breath into the world, you begin being socialized by your surroundings. (And I know this is true because you clearly lived long enough to learn English and how to navigate the Internet to find this post!)

Now here’s the thing: the coats aren’t inherently bad. I can understand where you might be thinking that when I say that none of them have fit well on me. Still, the coats came from somewhere, so the truth is that the coat was tailor-made for somebody else at an earlier point in time.

Like, I genuinely think the Kardashians love their lives, and society loves to hate on the Kardashians because we’re simultaneously marketed ways in which to be like them while we also have harsh critics of their lifestyle. What we simply need to understand is that what’s good for the goose might not be good for the gander. (And I’m not hating on the Kardashians at all; if anything, I’m super impressed by their constant hustle.)

For me, though, there’s always been a subconscious intuition that “this” isn’t “it.” That this or that coat just wasn’t made to fit me. It’s only be recently that I’ve come to understand that in more explicit terms and have been able to make peace with things like not having groomsmen in my wedding.

So, friends, I titled this piece How Long Have You Been Wearing That Coat? But… I sort of already know the answer to that. You’ve been wearing some form of coat since the day you were born. The real question to ask yourself is this:

What will you now do with that coat?

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