belong, be part of, fit in, exist, reside

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who accessed, skimmed through, or even read my previous post. It looks like over 170 of you saw the post, and I really appreciate your interest (much love, many hearts). I will definitely tackle on the topic of relationships, ghosting, dating etc. in the future, as these are aspects that every single one of us goes through, and they often become part of our identity.

And speaking of identity, it’s a topic that will be discussed today. I spent a lot of time thinking what to write about next. There are so many thoughts and opinions that go through my mind, or that I listen to, that sometimes I wish I’d have a ‘pensieve’ (like in Harry Potter), where I could take all my memories and put them in a bucket and then sink into the bucket of abyss (well I’m just blabbering now so let’s get down to business).

A couple of years ago, in my third year of university, I remember taking a course on nations and migration, as well as intercultural identities. One of the many interesting subjects we debated then was a ‘sense of belonging’, or what we mean when we talk about ‘home’. I recollect how a lot of us wanted to make the differentiation between ‘home’, as in where our family lives, and ‘home’, as in our student accommodation at the time. A home doesn’t only refer to a physical space where you grew up in, but also to your country, culture, understanding of the world. I believe that the most important aspects of making a ‘home’ is culture and… objects. Things. The realm of the physical.

We are so attached to things that it came to a point where we are characterised by them. We don’t feel comfortable in a new space unless we fill out that space with bits and pieces that we think represent our selves. When we move into a new house, it does not become a home until we’ve spread around our personal photographs, clothes, books, computer, decorations… everything that we hold dear. Time also plays an important part of this house-home transition. The more time we spend in a place, the more comfortable we feel there.

Of course, there are people that have left all these physical and material objects behind. And they feel so much better. They are free from the physical constraints of space and can do whatever they want. They are backpackers, travellers, adventurers, or minimalists, people who are content with who they are and what they have (or don’t). People who grew tired with all the clutter in their lives, and wanted to belong anywhere and nowhere at the same time. Or just people that realised value shouldn’t reside in things, but experiences, memories, or other unquantifiable and spiritual/ emotional aspects. But are we strong, determined, or willing enough to let go? To lose our sense of ‘belonging’, in order to live freely and assess a new identity of… ‘not belonging’?

Culture, or rather a sense of national identity, is another aspect of making us ‘belong’. I believe that culture came before nations, even though today, one is more transparent than the other. I spent quite a bit of my teen life traveling through Europe, thanks to my beloved mother and her job. The division between ‘us and them’ stroke me every time I would land or take off in or from a foreign country. And after moving to the UK for my studies, I started to feel a bit weird when I’d come back to Romania for the holidays, and all of a sudden everyone was speaking, behaving, and looking… Romanian.

But then, I remembered Benedict Anderson’s notion of ‘imagined communities’ (throwback to uni, once again). Anderson claimed that nations are alive only because our minds imagined and socially created them. He talks quite a lot about how the printed press (his book was published in 1983 so the internet wasn’t really a thing back then) helps in delimiting this boundary of ‘nationess’, by also creating a division between the local and global, the ‘us and them’. This for me became extremely clear during Daily Mail’s campaign against Romanians and Bulgarians, after the work restrictions had been lifted. One would think that ‘divide and conquer’ is not the norm anymore, but in a present where break-ups are the norm (be them political or romantical), maybe we were wrong to assume that.

After living in the U.K for 4 years, I ended up doubting to whom my loyalties lay. I was born and raised in a culture, yet I don’t identify with it anymore. I spent 4 years in the other, where my acculturation process went quite well, but despite taking over some of the characteristics of that culture, I still don’t identify with it. At the moment, I am in limbo. Or maybe I just lost my ability to imagine… communities. But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with being on the grey line, instead of the black/ white one. Things shouldn’t always be definitive, deterministic, and other D words. We shouldn’t be defined just by ONE culture, but by every bit that we’ve experienced. Or maybe we shouldn’t be defined at all.

So, the next time someone asks you, ‘where are you from?’, think for a second. Are you a backpacker, traveler, an adventurer, or something completely off the books? Where do you really belong?

P.S Thank you Dan, for helping me sort this post out!