Where Do I Belong?

Going through files I came across this gem. I took a course a while ago that pushed me to explore creative writing. I loved it and this week I’m going to share some of those goodies!!

Walking through the doors on my first day of junior high I was speechless. Even though everyone around was familiar, something was different. The new building gave the impression that entrance on its own changed you from the inside out. Classmates that used to be my friends were merely acquaintances now. Apparently, growing up meant that you had to start all over. As the first days of junior high grew into weeks, something happened.  Everyone had to belong to someone else. Suddenly, we emerged from grade school with the inability to be alone. I have learned over the years that this realization became a way of life from that moment on. We all need to feel wanted and want to be needed.

 When in time did this desire to build cliques begin. Looking back through history I found instances where individuals came together in their own sects. In Biblical times the disciples were a group; the Pharisees and Sadducees were together; even the priests had their own inner circle. The United States was founded on the beliefs and dreams of an inner circle. Through these recollections it has become clear to me that as a race, we need to belong. We were born different, raised different, taught different, and matured different. But those differences bind us together in some form of social interaction.

 I find it interesting how social we are as a human race. The need to find a group feeds this longing. Even a hermit is needed by someone or something. While the majority of the world seeks out a group of likeminded and commonly grounded foes, the average hermit finds solace in four walls of shelter. After all, there is no part of history that dictates who or what we must belong to . We all scoff when reports surface of an old lady with 500 cats in her house. She longed for fur balls and the soft purr of a friend that enjoyed her company. Who are we to judge?

 This idea of finding a place to belong began way before junior high. But the lasting effects of this desire surface around the ages of eleven or twelve. Friends become more than someone you see at school or play with on the weekend. Friends become your guide and, in some cases, your moral compass. The groups formed in junior high have a fifty percent chance of surviving the social pool that is high school.

 Entering the doors of high school offers a similar experience to junior high. The difference is that we’ve had two or three years of practice. The halls are bigger, the teachers are meaner, the lines are longer, and the expectations are much higher. Suddenly we realized that finding a group needs to happen immediately, this can’t wait. All around groups are forming like a mass exodus to the only remaining ant hill in the field. Where do we belong, why must we belong? Do we stand out or fall in line?

 Even Aristotle and Plato had an inner circle. They were the brilliant minds of our past so, they must have had a heads up on this “belonging” business. Now that high school has taken over our lives the social need is greater. If we don’t belong to anyone or anything the days get longer, the tasks get harder, and the end feels like it may never have a sunrise. Once we found a place, a people that understood us, or so we thought, life became easier. These groups and cliques helped us navigate through struggles and life lessons hard fought. But were they the right guides? Did they genuinely care about us? 

 This innate desire to belong lives with us forever. We feel great relief when the diploma lands in our palm and the pomp and circumstance plays its last tune. The survival of the fittest has come to end and now, growing up wasn’t so hard to do – or so we thought. Life moved on at a quick pace, but suddenly we realized that this longing hasn’t gone away. Not only has it grown, it has become more complex. The things and people we need are more sensitive, their needs are greater, their lives are evolving, and most importantly no one stands still for long. If you take an extra minute to fix your hair in the mirror you might miss their departure.

 Now we must find a new belonging. The stakes are higher, while the formation of the school ground is in the rear-view mirror, the gathering of more sophisticated means is a figment through the windshield. But what do these groups look like? How, in a world of millions of adults, and things, do we find where we belong. Suddenly the need for guidance is lost, but the need for reassurance is much stronger. We are not growing into people any longer, we are trying to maintain what we have grown.

 This longing, this deep desire, is it required. Can we manage on our own? According to God and his followers, absolutely not. But what about those people that don’t believe in a higher power, why do they congregate? I have come to believe that no matter what or where we put our faith, the desire to share and have common ground is stronger than any self-disciplined individual. For that matter, even animals survive in groups. Walking through the zoo, nine out of ten residents have company. So, what will come of this odd inner struggle to find a place?

 Everywhere we look there are options. We can become athletes, join a book club, become communication Rembrandts, or simply fade into the collections we have created to fill the void. Whatever we chose, a selection is made. Life is about belonging. Beginning new jobs, joining new clubs, and becoming a member of a bigger family all raise that familiar feeling and universal question of “Where do I belong?”

 I have found that this simple question can be traced back to some of the memories and events of our past. Inevitably, at some point we chose the wrong group or person to belong to. Choice were made that took us down a path not so bright. I find it ironic that, while this longing is bread into us, the decisions aren’t always positive. Something we must do carries the weight of being completely wrong and life altering. Ask the guy in cell 453 at the local prison. He’ll tell you he belonged, but that belonging was built on progress not sustainability. How can such mere desire be backtracked and filled with disaster? I guess you could ask Adam and Even the same question. They are the ones that got us into this mess. They needed to belong to wisdom. Now they, nor us, know what to do with it.

 As a child we longed for the days of making our own decisions. As a teenager we would daydream of the moment our lives would become free and full of adventure. As new adults set free in a magic world, we begin to realize that not much has changed from our days on the recess yard. The view is bigger, and the needs are greater, but the outcome is still inevitable. Do we join the geek table? Or maybe the cheerleaders well accept us. Worst case scenario, the band cluster always has room for one more. The faces may change as an adult, but the need to belong will never go away. It just becomes more sophisticated. length;d

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