Reflections on Places and Belonging

As I walked the night street with two of my oldest and closest friends, I looked around at the new hometown of one of them. I’m struck by a strange familiarity. A familiarity that recalls other walks with these same people what seems like a lifetime ago when we would walk to the center of town from our high school on the outskirts of town, surrounded by farms and space and not a lot of signs of life. This small city in which my friend lives now greatly resembles this kind of empty space outskirt. I’ve never been an outskirts person. Throw me right into it or completely out of it. For reasons I can’t quite explain, but I’ll attempt to now, I always felt a frustration growing up in the in-between town that I did. Maybe it was due to a residual bad feeling from being uprooted from the city as a kid. Maybe it was due to barely ever meeting like-minded peers. I always felt different from those around me who had several previous generations of people who grew up there. It’s almost as if, with all due respect to people who really do go through it, I was almost like an immigrant from the city to the country. At least that’s the best way I can explain the feeling, and hopefully that’s not an offensive comparison. I think I came to that conclusion because nonstop since Friday I’ve been listening exclusively to the Broadway musical, Hamilton, written, composed, and starred in by Lin- Manuel Miranda who describes the play as the story of the first American immigrant.

I’ve been thinking of the concept of immigration a lot in the last year or so. Learning how to teach English as a second language has given me a unique perspective into the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees.  And then there’s the mass refugee crises happening worldwide that is constantly in the forefront of, well, everything.

Therefore, the idea of feeling like you belong somewhere (or don’t belong somewhere) is interesting to me, because I don’t know if I ever have felt that way. I lived in the city for such a short time before moving to my in-between town. And then after moving from the place that never felt like home, I now like where I live, but I still feel like this section of my life is temporary, much like that strange familiarity.

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