The concept of belonging is among the main aspects of defining who we are. Membership in certain groups and communities is vital in creating one’s sense of identity.
Although belonging and identity are far from synonymous, it can’t be denied that a sense of belonging to a particular group/place/community contributes to establishing a specific sense of identity. And an identity, social or otherwise, is a crucial feature in what it is to be human.
Is It Going Down The Drain?
The modern debate on this issue suggests that we are losing this important sense of belonging and that with globalization, people are actually moving apart, rather than coming closer together. Neighbourhoods are said to become impersonal, bringing about a feeling of loss in the sense of place.
Is this really the case? Is the sense of belonging diminishing or are we simply finding new ways and methods to establish ourselves in a transformed society?
I hold the latter to be true. There have always been outsiders and alienation in society. On the other hand, today the choice of groups, connections, communities, and lifestyles is far larger than it used to be.
Reinventing yourself isn’t just reserved for teenagers like it was, with total transformation following in a matter of months. It’s a choice, an option, a given; sometimes even an expectation.
Sticking to what you know, the familiar, is now passé, uninteresting. Connecting is made easy, travel is more available than ever, lifestyle choices are constantly proliferating, and boundaries are pushed.
One has only to immerse oneself into it all. Then once immersed, skip from one thing to another until you find what you’re looking for and settle. Or not. Leading a life in a permanent search for the next great thing is hardly sensational nowadays.
The re-skilling and multitasking demands in the professional world only bring about this tendency even more. The commitment to life-learning and self-advancement imposes going out there, embracing the new, the unknown, the change.
If one is to lose the sense of belonging in the process, then tracing the path back shouldn’t be difficult. Roots can’t be erased. History stands the whips of time.
Whenever I was moving from one place to another, it always felt like changing my life from the core. The new environment wasn’t just a new place; it was also new people, new friends, a new lifestyle, new things to explore, and new interests to be had, new, new, new.
This newness also brought about a sense of loss; a loss of your old self. And yet upon closer inspection, the loss was nothing else than nostalgia for what came before, for the passing of time, for moving on. You can never lose your old self; it’s part of who you are now, and it doesn’t go away.
Modern is Complex
It seems to me that the difference the old and the new senses of belonging is that the modern one is far more complex. In the past, class, race and religion were the main distinguishers and identifiers. Now, those melt under the huge palette of others.
Today, you can be black, Caribbean, an NGO worker, a nomad, a freelancer, a father, a son, a husband, a writer, a marketer – all these at once.
The same things from before matter – only new are added. Just as history piles up and human progress advances without diminishing the fundamentals.
The fundamentals always stay; they’re the pillars, the roots. If they fall, everything falls.
How do you find your sense of belonging? Is it related to something specific? Do share in the comments.