Belonging Nowhere

“I want to go home.”

As far as I can remember, I have uttered these words in that exact same combination at least three times. They were a wish, a desperate longing and a plea clawing itself out of my throat. They used to be a tether to return to somewhere I thought I belonged, but these days they have become an exasperated sigh and the stark realisation that I don’t belong, at least not anymore.

People often talk about how they outgrow the places they are tied to by birth. I always thought it carried a note of escapism coupled with the need to have an explanation that isn’t rooted in ourselves. If I had known I would be in the same boat, then I probably would have listened to them better.

Home for me has never been about the place but rather the people I care for. But it seems the geography does shape the landscape of the mind and I am now on the other side of the fence, looking in.

To be honest, I don’t know when I changed into the me that I am right now. Maybe it was gradual enough that I didn’t notice. Or maybe it was sudden enough that I was shocked into forgetting. Either way I have changed and the places I carved out of myself in a frantic need to fit in have been stitched together with the self I have since discovered. And this hopelessly ragged piece of the puzzle no longer fits as elegantly as it once thought it did.

A part of me misses the ease of consumerism, how easy it was to get the things I wanted overseas. A slightly less superficial part of me longs for the ability to blend into the background and go about her ways. But instead I am left with the sense of unease that only a woman would ever feel in this society. I am caught in the disastrous struggle between gritting my teeth, never raising my head lest I create a “scene” and my stubbornness to meet the cat-callers, the oglers in the eye. There is no winning in this struggle. In this place, my desire to find meaning in work, in my choices is something that needs to be rectified through marriage. My voice, my opinions are something that should never be heard or seen for how else do you “tame” a woman? My politics are something that are unseemly, my nonexistent faith is something that requires either a noose or reluctant tolerance that hinges on my silence. My annoyance at a society that refuses to let go, to change, to stand by everyone and not just the select few is troubling for most. I am either a mindless, self-centred, upper-class consumerist voyeur or a conniving peddler of “western” ideologies, hell-bent on ruining our society. Either way I am not welcomed.

Have I outgrown this place or is my romanticism of what I had left behind finally out of steam? Even as I type this, a voice whispers that perhaps this has a veneer of pretentiousness. I never felt like I belonged but now that I see that I can’t belong, am I grasping at straws to legitimise this realisation? Am I justifying my wanderlust by pushing against the “norms” of this society? After all if I can’t mould myself to fit into the place that reared me for 18 years, where do I belong then?

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