A Question of Belonging

image kinshop

 **For more information on the prompt that inspired this post please visit here**

I am currently working on an honors thesis that explores the concepts of “belonging” and dispossession in modernist & postcolonial literatures. Why am I doing this? Because I’ve never truly and completely belonged anywhere (and I’d like to understand how this has played out in other people’s stories). However, up until arriving at UCLA, I hadn’t experienced the harrowing sorrow that comes from being without kinship, without “community.” In boarding school, I always had my sisters and cousins, and those one or two friends that made me feel loved even when all my other classmates exiled  me. Here in Los Angeles, it is different. I have often thought that no matter how long I stay here, no matter who I love here, it won’t feel like home; because my first experience of this great city was alienation. I remember when I came for orientation, and I landed at LAX; my first instinct was to cry, because of how ugly the airport and surrounding areas were. I have never, since then, been picked up from the airport . It is amazing how a homecoming – or lack thereof – can influence your feelings about a place. I am grateful for having had this experience though because it helps me understand the interplay between physical and emotional spaces.

Though UCLA is a community-oriented school – with its emphasis on community service, and creating spaces for various communities to express themselves – I still don’t quite feel it. I have made many friends, and I have loved many people, but I know in my heart of hearts that I don’t belong here. I wanted for so long to be free from my family and high school friends, I wanted to really explore life without their constant watchful eyes, but freedom and individualism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think so many people have understood that and tried to communicate that to us in their literature, but we fail to see, because we too are searching for ourselves. We don’t quite realize that we are not separate, but a part of the textured weaving of our respective tribes. When we retreat into ourselves, we risk the mental breakdown that exile and alienation so often lead to. I think that’s what Bessie Head was trying to say. There’s something unnatural about being completely and irrevocably alone.

So what happens when others ostracize you? I don’t quite know, but I hope that it won’t be any of our cases. However, I believe that everyone belongs somewhere. Everyone has a group of people with which they can just be without having to worry about conforming, or being good enough. You know there’s so many books and movies about bands of misfits? Well, that’s because  many times, those have been the communities to which individuals belong, in which they find their salvation.

I personally am not quite sure that I have found my tribe. But, I will say that two  groups of people come close: my WSP family, and my actual family, members of whom are all around the world. With these two groups of people, I don’t feel anxious or  “on-display for the peanut gallery.”  The reason I can’t say with complete confidence if these are my tribes is because I believe that a tribe gives you the freedom to be an individual whilst still belonging to a community. I don’t know that I am a complete individual yet, and I don’t know if I ever will be, but it is no longer of the utmost importance. I have decided that just having good people to share my life with is more than enough to be grateful for.


Post Submitted by Kanyin



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