Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,
We all want to feel a sense of belonging. It’s only human nature. Where we ‘belong’ is what stabilises us. At first glance, it may seem like such a frivolous matter: where I belong? pah! Why would I need to worry about that? But, belonging is what has shaped humanity since the beginning of, well… humanity!
Finding your sense of belonging isn’t straight forward. It isn’t just a label you can stick on your forehead and say “yup, I’m this.” But despite the fact that it isn’t a rigid and permanent label, most of us treat it like it is. It’s a complex matter which is so subjective and unique to each individual that it becomes almost impossible to speak of it objectively.
Right. We’ve all felt, at some point in our lives, that we don’t quite fit in. We’ve tried seeking out (whether that was through moving friendship groups or moving countries) to find groups of people who are similar to us and who hold values close to ours, ranging all the way from the belief in God to whether peanut M&Ms are the best. Familiarity is comfort. Agreed. But the problem arises when we realise that we aren’t one dimensional beings. We don’t just like one thing, we don’t just hold one belief, we don’t just like one album, and we certainly don’t always have the exact same thoughts throughout our lives. We are like a flame, we are constantly flickering, changing shapes, and sometimes, to be quite honest, are a little random.
Let’s look at it simply. You’re back at secondary school (assuming you’re not there already). You are new and you need to find a friendship group. For the purpose of this thought experiment, there are exactly three stereotypical friendship groups at this school. The ‘geeky’ group, the ‘cool’ group and the ‘passionate-about-some-video-game’ group. You think, hmm… let me start with the geeks, they seem nice. Being the intelligent boy/girl that you are, you fit in fairly well in the ‘geek’ group. You get their inside jokes about Lady Macbeth, you understand what photons are, and you hold debates on current politics. Great. The only problem is, that you just feel like you can’t follow fashion, in fear of being judged by the geeks as a ‘conformist.’ You can’t listen to your favourite mainstream music because that’s so mundane, and you’re certainly not allowed to use incorrect grammar when you speak. So after spending a good six months with them, you decide it’s time to migrate to a different group.
This time it’s the ‘cool’ group. You decide to reveal your glamorous side. You wear all of those clothes you’d secretly been hoarding, you do your hair fashionably, and wear the same sneakers as they do. Done. You go all the way from being an unnoticed nobody, to the coolest guy/gal in town. You start picking up their dialect- in other words, you also start inserting more swear words than verbs in your sentences. But, you’re a keen reader. You are intelligent and you love exploring ideas and concepts; however, the moment you open your mouth to speak words of knowledge, you’re automatically attacked with disdainful glares and the same ignorant comment, “Ew, that’s so sad, get a life.” You start realising that a lot of things you used to enjoy before, like reading, debating, and being deep, just aren’t allowed when you’re ‘cool.’ Now it’s all about missing lessons, attending parties, and looking flawless 24/7. Yeah sure, you like a bit of the ‘cool’ life, but at the same time, whilst feeling liberated in some aspects, you also feel severely restricted in others. You end up not being able to keep up with the latest trends and you suddenly start to lose the attention of the ‘cool’ kids. You miserably conclude, these people are far too superficial for my liking.
So you move again. Off to the peeps who are passionate about video games this time. At first, you’re viewed suspiciously since, after all, you were part of the group which used to mock them. It takes them a while to feel comfortable around you. They realise that you also have a sensitive side, that you too cherish emotions and that you also, most importantly, love the same video-games as them. You click and feel at home, at least temporarily.
After a year of being with them, you start to miss squeeky clean hair, colour coordinated outfits and you miss academic jokes. You feel like every group satisfies a part of you, but somehow leaves an other part unsatisfied. You want the inner beauty, you want the outer beauty, and you want the entertainment combined. You end up feeling conflicted and feeling
a little very out of place. You just don’t fully integrate into any group.
What do you do? If you don’t fit in fully, then you don’t fit in at all, right? Wrong. It’s not a 1 or 0 situation. Again, this isn’t binary, this is life. We don’t have to just belong in one place and forbid ourselves from breathing outside of it.
Trying to find the perfect place to belong in is absurd. There isn’t one single human being who has lived the exact same experiences as you. Keeping that in mind, why do we then seek to find someone (or multiple someones) who are identical to us? Why do we try to find people who are basically us? If you spend a lifetime trying to find them, you’re going to waste a lifetime, because you won’t.
Each human being is a patchwork. An intricate blanket with bits and bobs of different fabrics of different patterns. Throughout your life, you accumulate more bits of material (life events and experiences) and attach them on to the blanket. No one in the world will have the same blanket, but lots of people in the world will have shared sections of the patchwork; they may share the same belief, the same political stance, the same ethnicity, the same culture, the same hobbies, the same language, the same fears or even may have lived through the same experience with you.
It’s not about finding people who are the same; rather, it’s about finding people who are similar.
Sometimes most of the times, your ideal group will not exist, so it’s your chance to make one. Back to the secondary school analogy, who said a fourth friendship group couldn’t spring into existence? And who said you couldn’t start it? Who also said you couldn’t belong in all three groups simultaneously? Maybe if we realised that a cool, geeky, video-game fan can exist, then we’d realise that so can any other combination. We shouldn’t be afraid of expressing what we enjoy, and the fear of not belonging shouldn’t stop us from doing it. No-one wholly belongs anywhere, we only partly do. Therefore, we need to realise that there are no fixed rules about how many groups we belong in. We are all weird and wonderful combinations of culture, ideas and passions. Remember that my friend 🙂
Love from a Hooman Bean.