Coming up: my online travel writing class for Catapult in November.

The House of Belonging

“This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.”

– David Whyte
©1996

“Do you ever think about what it means to belong?” I recently asked a friend.

“To be perfectly honest, I have never entertained this thought. Until you just asked me.”

This answer came from someone who has spent her life in two countries. In my mind, belonging would have to be a burning topic for anyone who has left their home for a life elsewhere.

It certainly was for me. I have been on a quest to find this “bright home” from David Whyte’s poem, this “house of belonging” for a couple of decades now. Perhaps even longer.

Growing up in Yugoslavia (then Croatia), I never felt rooted. When I left in the early 1990s, I was quite convinced I would find home elsewhere. Surely I would one day discover what it meant to belong.

Fast forward, from the early 1990s to 2017. Life unrolled and much happened – two marriages, one divorce (and another coming up shortly), an adoption of a second citizenship, a life led by wanderlust on several continents, death of my father, birth of my son…

And all along, wherever I went and whatever I did, that pesky feeling that I didn’t belong. It kept nagging, poking, whispering into my ear:

“You don’t belong here.”

There were places where I got glimpses of belonging, flashes of home. But mostly I felt out of place.

I’ve always been a bit of curious cross between a lone wolf and a social butterfly. I love people and I love communities, yet I never fully belong to any. I always stand on the sidelines, on the fringe of cliques, groups and tribes. A part of something, and not quite.

As time passed, this, belonging, slowly turned into a minor obsession, then escalated into a full-fledged obsession. A quest. I started filling my head and heart space with thoughts of belonging. And in this new world order, it felt more relevant than ever, a topic so key to so many people as they leave their home and, unable to return, seek another.

Yet what does it mean to belong? It is such a wide term, so loose, such a catch-all for so much. Is it an emotional attachment to a place or a person? A strong sense of anchoring to a geographic locale?

Is it even possible to truly belong? If so, what does it feel like? If you belong to something, someplace or somebody, do you perhaps have more to give?

Begone Belong, this work in progress, is my attempt to answer these questions.

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