Photo by Bianca Bucu
Whenever I think of the word neighborhood it’s synonymous with the word belonging. The meaning of belonging shifted for me gradually as I got older. That word sometimes became a synonym for good, bad, and everything in between. But above all, that word became known as a never-ending learning lesson for me instead.
I’ve stayed in the same place for a very long time. I went to elementary, middle, high school in the Bay Area. I decided to go to a local community college and transferred to a university near…you guessed it. The Bay Area. It may seem like I found my sense of belonging in the same place for a long time, but instead, I found my sense of complacency.
To put into perspective, relationships and experiences can shape a person’s sense of belonging. It definitely shaped my sense of belonging growing up in the same hometown. Having lived in the same place for so long has made me even more curious about what life could be like outside of it.
My experience with belonging has felt like a push and pull of emotions. One moment I’m in, and the next moment I’m out. I’ve had my fair share of being in and out of clubs, social gatherings, and friend groups. At the surface level, it’s fun being acquainted with people. It’s fun living out the college experience of continuously going out. Even after an array of awkward interactions, somewhat decent conversations, and exchange of social media handles, I feel as though I’m still searching for that same feeling. But after going to those social events and living in the same place all throughout my life, I’ve come to ask myself what’s more?
In my main character arc of finding my sense of belonging, this should’ve been the part in the plot where I make a life-altering decision of moving away. So why haven’t I? The short answer is I’m still at the part where I’m figuring out the moral of the story. The learning lesson towards my sense of belonging.
It’s like wearing a really heavy backpack. It’s equipped with tools for my own discretion, and it follows me wherever I go. It’s packed with both positive and negative experiences from my past. And inside its pockets lies all my anxiety and restlessness for the future. This same heavy backpack carries all the weight of all my mistakes and is the main thing stopping me from moving away. But as soon as I take it off, I’m free. It sounds silly to describe it that way, but that’s how I feel. I’ve learned that without the confidence and finding that sense of belonging within myself, I’ll never find the confidence to move away from my hometown.
Moving away from my hometown seems nice, scary, but a comforting afterthought. In retrospect, I don’t really have an ideal place in mind. I just hope my main character arc gets to the part where she finally believes in herself.
But in the most anticlimactic form of settlements, I’m still in that part of my story where I’m still figuring things out and everything in between. The rest of my story remains unwritten.