Over the past few years, I’ve realized that for me, a key to happiness is feeling like I belong.
I need to have a community of like-minded people surrounding me to be at peace.
In the absence of family, I need to have friends who are like family, who will have my back no matter the circumstance.
There’s this hard-to-verbalize thing that comes with belonging, when everything just fits and is good and right. Belonging comes when you have people who will hold you up when you fall. Belonging comes when you accept that things aren’t perfect, but it’s OK because you have your people at your side. You’re in a place where you feel the most you and make wiser and bolder decisions, accordingly.
I’ll never take belonging for granted. I’ve spent a lot of time in amazing places, among amazing people, yet feeling alone.
This is partially a symptom of running away.
I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to go off and try different things and live in many cities and make a reality of my dreams. Were it not for all these experiences, I wouldn’t be content here, now.
Because of my tendency to run away, I’ve learned that a place can be everything you ever imagined, but once you’re there, it doesn’t quite fit.
You could be in the most perfect, picturesque, wonderful town in the entirety of the world, but you can still be unhappy.
Not being content in a place you expected to adore is tough to come to terms with. That the place you romanticized isn’t everything you anticipated really digs at you.
And when I say unhappy, I don’t necessarily mean depressed. You just have this pervasive nagging that things don’t fit. You feel kinda empty, despite the fullness around you.
So much of belonging comes from timing. A lot of my unhappiness was because I wasn’t in the right place at the right time. If I started at Bowdoin now, with the knowledge I have now, I think I’d be happy there. If I lived in DC now, with the friends I know there now, I’d be happy there. It would take a lot more for me to be happy in New York…but I could make it work there now, too.
So much of belonging comes from acceptance. Accepting who you are, accepting the place for what it is, and going all in to find what it can bring you. You have to put yourself out there to find your people. They don’t effortlessly appear in front of you.
Admittedly, when you walk into something unbiased and unfiltered, you end up with a lot of crap in the beginning. There’s confusion and discomfort. But as time passes and as you get to know the situation better, you realize who is and isn’t worth keeping around. You get stronger. You know more what you want and need in your life.
Boy, I hated Dallas growing up. But when I moved back here in 2011, my heart and mind were completely open. I had nothing to lose and no place to go back to, so I doubled down here. It wasn’t necessarily fun or pretty, but I eventually found myself surrounded by a veritable army of friends in this town.
Really, most of belonging comes from knowing who you are and knowing what you want in others. You have to slog through loneliness and shitty people to get there. It’s from these experiences, though, that you discover what you need to be happy. Through all of that mess, you’ll figure out what kind of support system is right for you.
Someone recently asked me if I could live anywhere, where would I choose? I answered: “Where my people are” and they told me that was a very loyal answer. Well, no. That’s a very selfish response.
I’ve lived in some incredible places, alone. Ain’t worth it.
The people make the place.
Good people aren’t easy to come by.
It takes growth and work and hurt to find them.
Once you do, hold on to them, tight.