Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography
Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

That first glimpse of Chicago’s skyline never seems to get old for me. Even after living in the area for more than ten years now, the sight of those towering buildings casting a dark silhouette against a backdrop of vast blue ombré still has the power to take my breath away.

From a distance, the skyline almost looks like one giant jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking pieces of concrete and glass, metal and cement lining the horizon. Yet up close each building is so distinctly different, some with reflective glass and others with black steel or gray brick. Some buildings touch the clouds, dwarfing the others in their shadows. Some structures amass city blocks while others sit nestled into the nooks and crannies of the city’s core. Each building is so different, yet together, as a whole, they seem to fit into one another, aside one another, and among one another. Together, the separate buildings become a unified skyline, the several become one.

I suppose we might be a little like those buildings, each of us looking for our matching puzzle pieces, in one way or another, searching for that person or community that makes us feel like we fit, that makes us feel like we belong. Longing for kindred spirits that embrace us for our unique shape, fit themselves around our jagged contours, and, in doing so, make us feel whole.

1120220_21004722eAnd what a truly miraculous thing it is to find our matching puzzle pieces.

For much of my life I have felt different, abnormal, peripheral. I tend to be quiet, shy, and timid. I am not hip or trendy, nor am I witty or particularly funny. And I often feel like my puzzle piece doesn’t quite fit. Oftentimes, I feel like I am just too something – too quiet or too loud, too liberal or too opinionated, too boring or too ordinary, too this or too that – to really fit in, to really belong. Except, of course, when I am nestled among my corresponding puzzle pieces – my husband, a few close friends, my family – those special souls whose own quirkiness complements my own, who welcome my peculiarities into their own. Then I am home.

But even when I’m tucked away into those safe places, among those special people, there are times when my differences, my otherness seems as obvious as the full moon in a clear sky. Because, of course, we are all so different, so divinely unique, created with a sacred individuality, that it would be sacrilegious to expect uniformity. Or, put differently, as my mom always says, “The world would be way too boring if we were all the same.”

It can be frightening to realize just how different we are, especially when we aren’t surrounded by our matching puzzle pieces, or when other pieces of our puzzle act so contrary to our expectations. It is at these times when I find it especially important to remind myself that I belong even if I don’t fit in, that there are times when we all feel like outsiders and, in that shared human emotion, we are more alike than we are different. It is at these times when radical empathy is most needed, when it becomes infinitely important to really see through another’s eyes, to really feel from another’s heart.

Maybe we aren’t all that different, after all. Maybe we are all lost sheep in one sense or another, at one time or another. We are all just looking for someplace, someone to call home. We are all just searching for our corresponding puzzle pieces and, in those precious souls, we all hope to find refuge and shelter from the storm. And it is in that shared human condition, nestled among our corresponding puzzle pieces, that we are made whole, that the separate becomes one amidst a massive, intricately complex, ever-changing jigsaw puzzle of messy beauty.

May you find your corresponding puzzle pieces, and hold them tight.


Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for providing the photo above as part of our Photo Inspiration Challenge. You can see more of her work on her website or Facebook page.

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  1. I have never, ever thought of you as ordinary. And thank goodness for that! In fact, I treasure my friends and family who don’t quite fit, they always seem to be the most interesting.

  2. I feel this way all the time. I don’t fit anywhere really, and I SO OFTEN feel “too much” for any one community. I am too conservative, I am too liberal, I am too creative, I am too pedantic, I am too boring, I am too quirky. As I grow older though, I see it as a blessing. How boring would it be if we were all the same? The friends and family who love this about me, they are my corresponding pieces, as you said.
    This is something I half-wrote a post on and left unfinished in my drafts. Now, I don’t feel like I have to write it, because this was what I was trying to say. 🙂

    • Christie

      I guess I’m not alone then, huh? Thanks, as always, for your comments!

  3. You are not alone! I have often felt the emotions and awkwardness you describe so beautifully. I love the way you wove in the image of puzzle pieces to illustrate the concept of “home” and humanity. Gorgeous!

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