Community: What does it mean to belong?

Black Sheep

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

I could never fully understand the idea and importance of community. Humans are driven to belong and the intrinsic feeling of satisfaction in being acknowledged, as part of a community or group, has been proven to be vital in our growth, but to begin to grasp the implications of trying to own such a word is overwhelming. Not only that, but the definition of community is fluid and holds different meaning for various people so I am left wondering whether letting this boiled down word slip off my tongue is worth the weight we put on it.

As Peter Senge states on the first page of The Fifth Discipline, “A person is a person because of other people.”

But I don’t belong in many places, hardly do I find myself at ease with another individual.

And this is something I’ve “struggled” with my entire life.

Of course there are people who I hold common interests with, and we often times orient ourselves in specific organizations to reach common goals. Does that mean I’m part of that community however? What if one of my beliefs collides with the others, despite our unification for the end goal of said group? Does that break apart the definition of community, as we are no longer unified?

Being in college, I am more confused that ever. I feel I am dissecting who I have the potential to be, but also losing sight of who I once was and the characteristics I had always thought I would hold onto.

To understand this better, pretend you’re digging a hole in damp soil. After unearthing a solid amount of dirt and other bits, you now have decided to fill up the hole again. No matter what you do though, the earth has changed. Despite your best intentions, you have ripped apart the vegetation, compacted the soil too tightly or loosely, possibly destroyed homes of animals, and picked up pieces of sticky mud, without meaning to, that you can’t shake off.

You didn’t mean to do any of these things, but it’s inevitably done. This “digging” done by the community, and by myself, has crumbled the foundation that I held compact for so many years.

To this day I am faced with this internal struggle of being true to self. I often times will recount an event or conversation and wonder whether this was simply another side of me, or whether it was a façade. I question if all I have are empty shells I slip into when different “communities” in my life are present. But I get so tired sometimes. And I begin wondering whether I should just give in to these actions or fight them.

Because of this, I’ve never defined any places as homes. I haven’t quite found my niche yet and I itch with the thought of possibly belonging to land, where I’d be tied down and committed. Instead, I find myself picking up the pieces of rubble within different people and moments to build my own inner sense of belonging.

Now, when I reflect on my life, it’s clear that I’ve shied away from taking strong and clear stances on many things. And I wonder whether that is because I too am vying for this sense of belonging in a physical community, or whether it is quite the opposite and I am taking a stance against joined forces and interests. Either option is discouraged and seems to inevitably fall short in the long run but I think I’ll run with it for now. It has been a complicated dance in trying to find oneness of self and reaching wholeness in identity and the world, but as I find myself paying less attention to that, and more to the feeling of simply being, it becomes a bit easier to breathe nowadays.

So maybe I’ll never conform for the sake of making others comfortable. At least I am sure and steady in my own silent strength and ways. For the communities that I have tentatively dipped my toes in, perhaps it is time to explore them further and stand with the sureness I have found in myself, seeing where I fit into the puzzle of this world we live in.

Post submitted by Kelly

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