November 13, 2015

DENG | On “Belonging”

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By SOPHIA DENG

I find myself conflicted whenever I hear the word “belonging.”

For a while, it used to conjure images of happy, fail-proof friend groups. Belonging meant that you had constant buddies to fall back on, no matter what. Belonging meant that these people would never shun you. Belonging, as a whole, gave off a sense of permanence and security.

As a person with no definite friend group, I always envied those who had them. And with the rise of #squadgoals in social media outlets in recent months, finding BFFs to go on adventures with, to survive hardships with, to cry and laugh with seemed more vital than ever.

I used to obsess about this. When would I ever find my group? I felt like a freelancer; drifting around, never quite finding solid social footing anywhere.

As I met different people throughout high school and took a good look at who I became close friends with, I realized that belonging doesn’t necessitate spending most of our time with a set group. What I really craved were the connections. Deep connections with people who, in moments of vulnerability or honesty, showed parts of themselves that I recognized in myself.

Making these connections with different people gave me an opportunity to talk about similar experiences while exchanging fresh opinions. These encounters gave me new outlooks on a familiar situations, and by making these friendships, I was able to understand myself a little better. I felt more comfortable about where I stood in the grand scheme of things.

The main issue with the word “belonging” is that people often interpret it as a need to mold themselves into certain types of people — a huge misconception. And I think that’s where all the confusion and hurt begins, because if we put so much effort to become Someone and fail our expectations, we feel helpless and think that we “don’t belong anywhere.”

Belonging isn’t something we’re supposed to seek out. It happens naturally because we gravitate toward people who remind us of ourselves, even if it’s just a little bit.

The belief that we must “belong” to a certain group is much too conforming. It results in missed opportunities to learn from others. Sure, we might relate to certain people more, but there is something to be learned from everyone out there. And regardless of our interests, careers, education or background, we all go through much of the same experiences growing up.

If we worry less about belonging somewhere than about discovering and nurturing parts of ourselves by interacting with other people, we will feel even more comfortable with our lives with a newfound sense of freedom.

Sophia is a freshman majoring in Computer Science. Her favorite things include her sketchpad, grapes and Facebook Pusheen stickers. She may seem quiet upon first impression, but beware of her random laughing fits once you get to know her. Occasionally, she can be found outside the library. Her posts appear on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at syd6@cornell.edu.

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