By Debbie Olujobi

A sense of belonging is what most people spend their whole lives looking to find; its why we are attached to friends and relatives; its why we spend a major part of our lives looking for that special someone to share our lives with; its why we build our homes to particular tastes and fill it with all sorts of knick knacks that make it a home.. As much as we all aspire to greatness; to excel in all enterprises we set our minds to no; one really wants to be all alone! Those who seek lives of complete solitude have either been spurned by the world or driven away from civilisation to find deeper meaning in things that are totally outside the range of judgement and rejection. What is becoming very apparent to me is that quite a number of people are actually very lonely despite not being alone! Sounds ridiculous to be in the middle of a crowd yet be consumed by abject loneliness but surprisingly a number of people are in that very position. Robin Williams, one of the world’s most accomplished comedians this year committed suicide, he was full of life and made everyone laugh, who would have guessed how miserable he was? His state of mind was captured in a haunting quote. In his words “I used to think the worst thing in life was being all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone”

It’s possible to grow up in a large family and have a lonely childhood just like it’s very possible to feel alone even when in a relationship. The key thing really is the feeling of belonging! Can we find our own level, that makes interaction easy in everyday life or are we to resign ourselves to being the square peg in the round hole our entire lives? It boils down to the reality of sociology, how do we fit into the environment and live happy lives within our communities? I get a lot of responses and questions from readers who often find themselves feeling the outsider and since I also do from time to time, I wanted to share a few ideas that have helped me integrate better. The manner of integration is not a one size fits all solution as people and situations differ almost second per second; so you must always find a place with people willing to make room for you to fit in. Sad truth is we won’t be welcomed everywhere but we will always find places where we belong if we only reached out.

A couple of days ago, I was in the middle of a briefing and somebody mentioned how I had switched from very stilted Queen’s English, to pidgin English before finally speaking like the typical Lagosian in a space of 10 minutes. I actually hadn’t noticed but I have found one of the surest ways of favourable interaction is to get on the level of whomever I am speaking to. Initially I had been on the phone with associates abroad so the level I adopted was one of seriousness and quiet authority, minutes later I was giving a friend’s driver descriptions to get somewhere so pidgin English was the tool of choice; later on I was in the middle of giving instructions to subordinates who needed some gentle nudging to render services that were not only urgent but crucial to the success of a project that I was in the middle of so I sounded exactly like them. The thing to note was that at no point was I talking down to anyone or allowed myself to be talked down to. No matter the repertoire of accents at our disposal; communication must always be the deciding factor in our manner of speaking. Sounding like a professor of English while pricing fish at a local market will only get you a bad bargain, trying it with colleagues and subordinates will breed resentment and guarantee one remains an outsider in any group. The cure for loneliness is not gauging accents and manners in conversation but in interactions, communicating effectively and sharing a bit of oneself with others. Giving of oneself and receiving of others without judgement.

I learnt a long time ago that nobody was above or beneath me, we are all God’s children and if we all respected and honoured our differences, we would be happier and never really feel alone. I am still finding my place in the universe, seeing where I fit and where I don’t. I still have days where in the middle of a crowd, in the midst of love I feel alone but that’s only because I sometimes don’t reach out, when I do, I am pulled in to laughter, into joy. I can’t honestly say I was a great fan of Robin Williams, I found him a bit manic and restless, classic signs of a manic depressive but I was still sad and shocked at his death. Depression is a battle fought and lost by those who choose suicide and it is a shame that anyone would die feeling alone. Around us all, there are many who feel like he did and it calls for the rest of us to do more, to care more and give of ourselves. Sometimes people just need us to make room for them to try and fit in.

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