I've been plagued by a nagging question as long as I can remember. In fact one of my earliest memories involves this question.
And I've yet to resolve it.
And I've asked a lot of people for advice and insight.
And still, as yet, it's an unresolved mystery to me.
Where do I belong?
And its follow up question: How do you know where you belong?
I have no more clue now than I did when I was three. And I continue to assuage my confusion with, "Just make the best of wherever you are."
Make the best of what you have and where you have it. Find contentment within and the rest will either take care of itself or not matter.
Good solution, right?
Yeah, I think so, too. And for the most part it's worked out okay for me.
But now...well...now since no one will hire me and I'm going to be homeless I am forced to consider not only what
my next move is, but where
it is. I could stay in Chicago, or the suburbs thereof. MAF and his partner have offered their couch and another friend has offered a spare bedroom in her suburban home. But those are only temporary options, not long term solutions. Where do I want
to go? Gee, I dunno. Okay, well, let's look at this from another angle. Where do I belong
? I have absolutely no idea.
I know some basics about where I don't
belong. Climate is an important factor. I know I don't belong anywhere with an average temperature above 80° or humidity above 70%. (And yes, that is Chicago for several weeks/months of the year so what the heck am I doing in Chicago?)
And now economics is an important factor. I know I don't belong anywhere with an average income above $40K and rent/mortgage costs over $700/month. (And yes, you'd be hard pressed to find an insect-free apartment located more than 3 blocks from crack dealers for less than $700 in Chicago so what the heck am I doing in Chicago?)
For a lot of people family is a factor. And yes, given her health and widowhood I'd prefer not to be more than a six hour drive/one hour plane trip from my mother, but...given my, um, "predicament" that's lower on the list of practical considerations.
And that's not really my point, here.
I'm not talking about the best place to live, I'm talking about figuring out where you belong. My feeling is that the two are rarely the same. I contend that very few people live where they belong. Or belong where they live.
So I've never felt "bad" about my bewilderment over not knowing where I belong. I don't think I'm in a small minority of people who are clueless about where they belong. In fact, I'm confident a lot
of people have no clue where they belong, physically or metaphorically.
My contention, though, is that we'd all be a heck of a lot more content if we a) figured out where we belong and b) lived there. Contentment = serenity; Serenity = positivity; Positivity = fewer health problems, less crime, fewer wars...so yeah, figuring out where you belong and living there is actually a pretty big deal.
Religious people claim they don't have this conundrum because they have Jesus/God/Buddha/Elvis in their heart and He is their origination, destination and compass for all points in-between.
Yay. How very convenient. Don't throw your Bible at me and I won't throw my Sartre at you.
A lot of people equate belonging with home, and in turn, home with a specific person/people. Home is where your heart/mom/spouse/kids/dog/Ferrari/light saber is. Except in the case of material possessions I think that's a good outlook. (and for the record if religion provides contentment without judgment, rock on)
If you're an adult, and you have no spouse/kids/dog(or Ferrari or light saber) do you really "belong" with your parents? If you met an adult who lives with their parents, and in response to the question, "Why do you live with your parents?" they said, "This is where I belong," what would you think? Really. Be honest. You'd think a lot of negative stereotypes and social stigmas.
Which is too bad but I don't see that attitude changing anytime soon.
Which is too bad because there are a lot of lonely single people on this planet and it's sorrowful and depressing to think that the one place where many of them feel like they belong is the one place society mocks and ridicules.
I know I don't belong in The Suburbs. Even though I'm from
The Suburbs, I'm a native, I don't belong there. I didn't even belong there when I was a kid with a right granted by my parents' property tax payments to live in The Suburbs. Now, when I visit friends and family there as a never married, childless adult not only do I not fit in, I am judged, questioned and either pitied or dismissed. I definitely do not belong there.
And it's worse for men. Never married, childless men can add "creepy" and "feared" to the list of reasons they don't belong in The Suburbs. A never married, childless man buying a home in the suburbs automatically makes him suspect: He's labeled a sex offender, murderer and/or evil scientist conducting sinister experiments on young children before the moving truck pulls out of the driveway.
So. We can cross The Suburbs off the list of possible places I might belong.
That leaves: Heavily populated urban centers and isolated rural areas.
I like cities, I prefer cities, I'm comfortable in the anonymity cities provide. But cities are expensive places to live. And I'm unemployed. And out of savings. So. Yeah. That's a non-starter. But that's okay. Because even though I like cities, I've never found one where I felt I belonged. I felt like I didn't
belong in several cities which I won't mention. But, there are cities I like and wanted to belong but didn't. I like New York. London. Antwerp. San Francisco. Vancouver. Minneapolis. And I think I've spent enough time in all of those cities (doing things other than vacationing) to know whether or not I belong there. I feel affectionate toward them, but I don't feel that affection is reciprocated. I've never had bad experiences in those cities, but I don't feel like I belong
in any of them.
So that leaves a whole heck of a lot of isolated rural areas.
And my parent's house.
Okay, let's just say I move home with my mother. I mean, why not? Why not just admit defeat in every aspect of my life and move home with my mother? Start wearing cheap knock-off versions of Pajama Jeans* and mismatched slippers to the grocery to buy RC Cola and Velveeta. A spinster who failed at life moves home with her widowed mother. That's how it's supposed to happen, right? That's what happens to spinsters who fail at their careers and at life in general. They move in with their widowed mothers, eventually the mother dies, one cat turns into 150, the spinster starts yelling crazy nonsensical things at neighborhood children, maybe starts shooting a shotgun at anyone who comes within 100 feet, the house falls into disrepair, yadda yadda yadda the gas company guy goes to shut off the gas for non-payment and smells something fetid and finds cats dining on what's left of the spinster, who the coroner figures was dead at least seven months. (And yet people say I don't think about my future. Bah! Obviously it's all
I think about.)
The sooner I admit to myself that this is my life, accept it and stop fighting for something more, better or at least different
, the sooner I will find contentment.
But. I think, I hope, I have at least a few years of early spinsterhood left. The jaded, bitter, callous, shrew years. Oh boy!
And my mother happens to live in suburban Detroit. Detroit, though full of many virtues and nowhere near as bad as comedians seem to think, is not a great place for an unemployed person looking for a fresh start. And more to the immediate point, I've spent a lot of time in Detroit, and Michigan, and even though I love it and have zero complaints and nothing but praise and heart swelling pride about being from there, I never felt like I belonged there. I wish I belonged there, but even with my burgeoning span of unemployment I still don't feel like I belong there. (Because there's a heck of a lot more to Detroit, and Michigan, than unemployment.)
See square one, "I have no clue where I belong."
I'm not looking for contentment. It would be nice, but contentment is a luxury, a pipe dream for me.
I'd be happy with acceptance. It would be really nice to be accepted, as is, no judgment or questions. That, too, I think is a pipe dream. Unless there's a place, a colony or island or gated community solely for single, educated-professional-but-unemployed people who have nowhere else to go. That's
where I belong. If you know of such a place please tell me how to get there.
If, as I suspect, that singles safe haven doesn't exist, then how do I choose where to go?
Or, as I also suspect, if no one
feels like they really belong anywhere
, then is a nomadic life the best solution? People who don't know where they belong (physically or metaphorically) are by definition discontent. Wouldn't they, we, find some contentment (or at least solace) if we were traveling around trying new places, looking for a place we belong rather than stagnating somewhere where we don't belong? The irony of being a nomad to avoid discontentment is not lost on me. And yes, yes, I know, I know. The fastest and surest route to discontentment is to question where you belong. I know that. I read. I listen. I hear. I live. I look in the mirror.
And yes, yes, I know. I'm stepping around the obvious metaphoric aspect of belonging. Doesn't it go without saying that if you're not at peace, comfortable in your own skin, you'll never feel like you belong anywhere? I thought that was assumed knowledge.
And yes, yes, I struggle with self-image, but, even so, I am comfortable in
my skin. All 5'11" of it. I don't like that men don't find me, my outer appearance, attractive, and therefore I wish my skin was wrapped around a more appealing physical face and body, but, I am comfortable in
my own skin. I know who
I am. And I know men are not attracted to me. I accept this. I'm not "happy" about it but I have come to accept it enough to be content with that knowledge. If I weren't comfortable in my skin I would have bought plastic surgery instead of a condo. A decision I am starting regret because, ha, the joke's on me, the plastic surgery would have lasted longer than my condo and if I were more attractive I'd stand a better chance at job offers
which would give me a better and steadier income so I could buy a condo. But, heh heh, I was comfortable in my skin, I accepted myself and was well on my way to finding contentment in loads of ways other than romantic affection and a stable relationship. Look where that
got me. Unemployed and homeless.
But hey, I'm comfortable in my skin. I know who I am, I know how I look, and I know men are not attracted to me. Trust me, there's a heck of a lot of contentment in accepting that.
Unfortunately we live in a Disney-fied society where women, educated, intelligent women, choose to ignore the census data that proves it is statistically impossible for there to be someone for everyone. (and that true love's kiss can solve any problem) Also unfortunate is that our media-spun society showcases only the most attractive women, so men have a very skewed view of what women "should" look like. (yes, guys, I am saying you buy into female physical stereotypes, it's not a bad thing, I spent six seasons watching LOST (including repeats) solely because the men were stereotypical handsome).
I'm not blaming other people for my inability to attract a mate. I take full responsibility for my DNA.
But I am pointing out that other people are part of the equation when trying to sort out where one belongs. And for me, an area densely populated with women who truly believe there's someone for everyone and men who are only attracted to centerfold or super-close-up scene ready women is not a place where I belong. (If someone will give me a research grant I will doggedly study and report my findings on the correlation between college educated women who believe in real life fairy tales (and regularly use that term) and men who only date women who are possession of stereotypical physical attraction and the increasing role plastic surgery plays in "real life fairy tales.")
Obviously I do not belong
in a fairy tale, real life or otherwise. I'm content with that. I have census data and demographic stats to keep me warm.
So. Yes, emotional, mental contentment plays a huge role in the feeling of belonging. But I'm fairly certain that's not holding me back from figuring out where I belong. It is my fervent hope there is at least one place on this planet where it is not commonly believed that there is someone for everyone and anyone who doesn't have someone is either sad and pitiable or flawed and scorn-worthy. That's
where I belong. But I have no idea where that is (other than in my imagination).
I have lots of questions and I'm betting you have lots of answers.
Do you know where you belong? Do you live there? Are you planning to live there? How do you know it's where you belong? When and how did you figure out you belong there? Was your discovery an accident or based on a calculation derived from a formula involving several factors?
How well do you know yourself? Do you have a solid grasp on how other people see you? What's your comfort level in your skin? Is that comfort level a factor in your contentment with your locale?
*I've already looked into Pajama Jeans. They don't come cheap. And. If you find yourself reaching for the credit card when the Pajama Jean commercial airs you are exactly the person who should not
be reaching for the credit card when the Pajama Jean commercial airs. I don't know who belongs
in Pajama Jeans, but I am certain women who find them appealing are the women who do not
belong in them.