On Leaving and Belonging
Politics and Activism

On Leaving and Belonging

Feelings of Displacement Among Young Adults


Your early twenties are full of so many transitions, it can make your head spin. First, you leave your hometown and high school for the mess that is college. Then, after you get your degree, you pack up and either go to a new place for more school or maybe to find a job. Then, if that job doesn’t work out, you go somewhere else. And along the way, maybe you’re trying out different jobs in different towns during the summer, or maybe you switched schools, or maybe your family moved as so many do after the kids leave. But you’re trying to figure out just what it is you want to do in life and that means that you keep moving to different places, you keep meeting new people, and you keep trying new things. And it’s great because you want to try new things and meet new people but it can also be really hard. Each time you get settled in at a new place and start to feel like you belong, it’s time to move onto a new one.

And one of the worst things about all the moving around is that when you return to your last place to visit, you suddenly don’t belong anymore. Everything moved without you. And yes, you were moving too but in a different direction. And coming back, whether it’s coming back home, to your old school, or to the town you spent two months, is like trying to take something that has been recycled into something else and return it to its former state. The new state may be better or worse than the old one, but you’re never going to get it back to where it started.

I’ve experienced this feeling time and time again. In just the past few years, I have changed so much and as a result, I can’t return to the places I was when I was a different person and expect to feel the same things I felt then. I changed too much for that and the place itself changed while I was gone. And I’m thankful for the memories. I’m thankful for the roles these places have played in my life and how they have shaped me into the person I am and am not now. But I’m also thankful that I did move on because each new place, each new town, each new challenge, has changed me for the better.

But each time I return to these places and get that square block in a round hole sort of feeling, I realize that there are still things that tie me to these places. The people I have met, the friendships I have built, and the relationships I have formed are the things that made me the person I am today. And I can take these relationships, these memories, and these ties with me wherever I go, whether it’s yet another stop on the road to figuring out what this adult thing is, or if it’s a place I’ve been to a million times.

So yes, I keep leaving and I keep going new places. I keep constantly feeling displaced, like I don’t belong. And maybe I don’t have one place to call home yet. But every time I go somewhere new, I build a little bit of a home. I build a home in the friend I make in class, or at work, or in my building. And how lucky am I to have so many places to call home.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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