The first time I became intimate with the word 'limbo' was with with my ex-boyfriend. A couple of months after we had broken up, we found ourselves in contact again, reconciled but not completely back together as a couple. There was so much to heal that he didn't feel ready to get back on track just yet. But given our intense relationship and affection for each other, we agreed to both wait it out. For years I was neither here nor there, more than a friend, not quite the lover, and it was agonizing. It was then that I realized how limbo might as well had been hell.
Despite being fully acquainted with the reality of limbo, oddly I still continued to find myself in this space in various aspects of my life, though not always by choice. And this feeling that I don't quite belong, that I'm always somewhere in between, all the more solidified when I migrated here to the U.S.
Searching for new friends has always been a challenge. In certain groups that I've attempted joining, I was either 'too ethnic'/'not American enough' or even sadder, I've also found myself on the other end of the spectrum where I didn't feel 'Filipino/Asian enough'. At some point, I just stopped trying and told myself that if not for my desperation, these are people that I wouldn't really choose to hang out with anyway. I didn't feel like we had much in common and I felt too old to try too hard and play games. I knew I was fine in my in-between space even solitarily.
I suppose it doesn't help that I'm an introvert and prefer smaller groups and deeper conversations. That's just not everyone's cup of tea. The strange thing is, some people I've met wouldn't even believe that I'm a shy introvert. They all say I seem friendly. Well, I am! But it's a lot of effort for me and it's only because I force myself to step it up when I know it's necessary in social situations. I guess you could say I'm an in-between shy introvert.
Physically, there's also a lot about me that seems to belong in the heart of 'in-betweenville'. I'm Asian and yet because of my mixed heritage, I don't look typically Asian. When it comes to my size and body frame, I'm again neither here nor fully there. I refuse to wear, (nor would I fit into) anything fitted and yet when I go to plus size stores, they tell me I'm too skinny.
And my hair. Oh my hair! I'm afraid it has reached the worst limbo ever, closer to hell really. I love short hair but have been afraid to cut it really short because of my round face. So instead, I've opted for a longish version of short, a coward's pixie cut that doesn't really look like one. It's a hybrid. I'm in between. And I hate it.
It's with all this in-between baggage that I showed up for my first blogging conference this past weekend. I went to the Bloggers at Midlife (BAM) conference right here in Nashville, filled with anxiety and of course the sense of resignation that it probably won't turn out differently for me. I have accepted that I would feel lost, insignificant, and of course, in limbo, amidst the sea of confident women who probably won't care about me.
Why should they? We don't really know each other. I've only related to some of them virtually and so we only 'semi' know each other. We're in between.
And then my age. The group is for women 40 and above, the midlifers. Though I certainly qualify in terms of my age, I knew that I'd probably be one of the youngest and I anticipated that this would further alienate me. When I got to the conference, everyone kept doubting and joking that I was probably just 27, or 18, who knows, and I wondered if my youthful looks made it more difficult for people to take me seriously. I hoped not.
When I spoke and revealed to some of them my background, the attention went to my speech, my accent, but in a good way. I was told that they couldn't detect a foreign accent at all and found it surprising that I've only been here in the U.S. for close to 11 years. I still think I do have a slight accent, maybe at least with some words, I don't know. I'm in between, I guess.
But the worst fear I had showing up at the conference had to do with my blog's identity. Can I just say it's a personal blog?...that I blog about parenting but not just about parenting?...that I blog about social life from the perspective of a migrant?...and that I also blog about romance, marriage, social media, culture and everything in between?
Apparently I can. And apparently none of my baggage mattered when I met the midlife bloggers! Everyone was so welcoming and the warmth of these new friends I met made it easy for me to want to swim out from the depths of my in-between and simply show up just as I am---tainted with my imperfections, insecurities and all the limbo that defines me. I could sense that everyone was authentic and that gave me a safe spot to plant my feet on and keep walking forward.
I survived my first blogging conference. More than that, I actually genuinely enjoyed getting to know these fellow bloggers / writers who were all full of wisdom and generosity. There was no sense of competition, only camaraderie. There was no judgment, only acceptance.
I may not always be easy to figure out. Maybe my in-between-ness makes it far too complicated for some to want to get to know me. But this is who I am and if there's anything I learned from the wise and self-assured midlife women I met this past weekend, it's that we all have gifts within us. We can all make a difference with our distinct voices, whether we're speaking from the top of the mountain, a valley, or somewhere else in between.