“I don’t belong here.”
“I don’t fit in.”
“I don’t think people understand me.”
These are the thoughts and feelings of my heart. These are things I feel on a regular basis. When Redox decided “belonging” was a core value, I had an identity crisis. People would describe their experience of “belonging” and I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t think of a time where I felt like I really belonged.
Here’s how Redox defines Belonging, as a value:
Strive to create an environment where every Redoxer can thrive.
It is fundamental to our success that every Redoxer, from every background, identity, and circumstance, feels like they belong and can contribute. We actively choose to build a safe environment where Redoxers can show up authentically so that we can all act with confidence and perform at our highest levels, both individually and collectively. This allows us to co-create the company, ecosystem, and industry we want to be a part of.
I have lived most of my life compartmentalized. I’m an accountant. We’re good at putting things into boxes where they belong. Work belongs in this box. Family in another. Intellectual pursuits in another. God, Religion and Philosophy in another. There was some overlap. But generally these aspects of “who I am” were all in their own box.
I related to people in the same way. I would communicate with the people in my family, at work, at church or in other areas of life in the context of the paradigm I put them in. They didn’t understand the “other boxes”, and because they didn’t understand these other aspects of “me”, I assumed they didn’t understand me. I have always felt that no one really understands me. I feel like I’m always a little on the outside looking in.
Don’t get me wrong. I like people. I get along with almost everyone. I can relate to most people in some way. I love working with people to accomplish meaningful things. It’s part of what gets me going every day. But I still didn’t feel like I belonged. Perhaps because I don’t share my “full self” I’ve never placed myself in a space of “full belonging”?
Or have I?
As I struggled through these concepts, I reflected on my experiences and my ever-changing perspectives. In my reflections, I realized I was struggling with “belonging” because I didn’t relate to the experiences that others were sharing. Or rather, I have had similar experiences, but I couldn’t relate to the way the experience made them feel. We all feel things in a unique way. I have worked hard to understand my emotions and those of others. It is an area that does not come naturally to me. Because of this, I needed to reframe the question. Part of the reason I was struggling with “belonging” was because I didn’t know what it was, or what that word meant. I couldn’t define it. People were talking about emotional experiences that related to “belonging” but no one had told me what “belonging” was. Without a defined understanding, I couldn’t apply the way I experience emotion to the situations I have had in the past.
I turned to the dictionary.
“An affinity for a place or situation”
Cool – what’s an affinity?
“A spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something.”
[My brain processes this]
“a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for a place or situation”
Holy crap! I feel that all the time!
I keep reading synonyms to affinity:
Rapport, Empathy, Harmony, Bond, Connection, Relationship
As I’m reading, I’m just saying “yep” “I see” “Oh, that makes more sense now”.
I had framed “belonging” in a way that was not reflective of the meaning of the word.
It is unlikely that anyone will ever know the whole “Jeremy”. And that’s ok. I’ve felt and known that for a long time. And I’ve been ok with that for a long time. I don’t share an aspect of myself that I don’t think someone will understand. Maybe we all do that. People are complex. But in the GIANT Venn diagram that is the mess that makes me “me” – there is TON of belonging.
I belong in my family. My siblings are people who I have a very natural and easy relationship with. I belong in my church group. We have a shared philosophy that makes building connections easier. I belong in my community. Spontaneous friendships are created in the Midwest simply by walking down the street or visiting the farmers market. (I love the Midwest, people are just so nice.)
More than almost anywhere, I belong at Redox. My first week at Redox was team week in the summer of 2019. Niko gave a presentation about the history of Redox and why they made the company. The values, the culture, the purpose behind what we do was a breath of fresh air. I gave Niko a hug after the presentation and thanked him for helping to create this place and all that it is. Niko may have been confused after an awkward hug from a guy he hadn’t actually met yet. But I felt belonging.
There are more people at Redox that I “have a natural affinity for” than anywhere I have ever been before. To my coworkers here at Redox, thank you for who you are and the way you show up. Thank you for the connections we share. Thank you for helping me, someone who has never understood or felt “belonging” to finally understand and feel like I belong.
Jeremy Lambertsen is Redox’s Senior Director of Finance and lives outside of Chicago with his wife and three children. As a family they enjoy travel, the arts, the outdoors, and good food.