“Belonging is just a state of being comfortable
so it’s not necessarily a physical place.”
I find the concept of belonging really interesting. I recently moved here from New Zealand and I often get people asking me where I’m from and I find it really hard to answer because I have lived all over New Zealand. I grew up in the Manawatu in the central North Island, but my parents were share-milking dairy farmers so we tended to shift every three years when the contract finished. We lived in the South Island too, which is a different sort of culture, and as an adult I’ve lived in many different cities around New Zealand. Having the family well spread out and growing up in different areas as well, you feel like you’ve put down roots all over the country.
Do you think you’ve put down roots and then they’re pulled up when you leave or do they stay there?
I think the roots stay there. You just move on to a different stage of your life. So I think of my childhood as being in the Manawatu, then my teenage years around Christchurch. As an adult, I’ve chosen places to be and you make families in each area that you’re in.
I think I found it harder when I was younger, because I would feel like I had a place and belonging and then we’d move and I’d be confused and wonder who I was as a person because I associated a lot of my personality with where I was and who I was with. As an adult, you release this is part of who you are: you’re someone who is happy being in different places. And this becomes part of your personality.
How do people react to you when you discuss this with them?
Some people find it interesting. I’ve certainly met a lot of people who’ve had similar circumstances and who are more understanding that your home is where you decide to make it and that you can have more than one home. But some people almost find it confusing. If they’ve grown up in the same place, they’re really surprised that you’ve chosen to move away from family and that it must be really hard. They don’t see the sense of adventure or the opportunity that comes with it and with meeting new people.
I think belonging is just a state of being comfortable so it’s not necessarily a physical place. You can belong in a group of people and you can find that type of group all over the world and you often end up with that type of person even though it’s in a different city or a different place, you’re still in your comfortable place because you’re still with like-minded people or similar-experienced people.
How will you build belonging here?
I’ve been in Australia and in Brisbane for six months so part of it is me getting comfortable with a home itself, me setting up a nice happy little home, finding local things that I can start to recognize as my favourite local places. Finding the little niches you enjoy going to and the people you meet along the way will become part of your little tribe.
Do you want to belong?
If you take the physical place out of it, I think, definitely, because belonging anchors you. It gives you a bit more direction. It’s nice to feel you’re free and just going about doing what you want to do but … I guess in someways belonging can tie you down, can’t it?
I think not belonging for a time is a positive in some ways because you get a chance to think outside the box of what you’re used to thinking. You get to look at things a bit differently. As humans we’re always going to want to belong.
This story was caught at the State Library Queensland Big Day of Belonging 18 June 2016. You can also read it on the SLQ Blog.