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09.11.2018- On Belonging

Belonging is a strange old feeling, and one which is almost impossible to define in anything more specific that your own personal experience. Whether it's feeling at home in your own skin, and being perfectly content to be in one particular place above all others, it's s tricky nut to crack, and one which you only really come to appreciate when you've found it completely. Up until recently, I'd never really thought all that much about how my own sense of belonging is bound up in geographical location as much as anything else, but having mused on it in a little bit more detail, I've realised that home doesn't necessarily always have to be the place where you feel that you most belong. 

I've lived in the same place all my life, and the stability that the sunny Surrey suburbs offers is absolutely ideal. At almost 29, it's been the bedrock of my upbringing, and unless something radical happens to property prices or my salary in the immediate future, I can't see that things will change too much on that score- so far, so millennial! Up until recently, I'd never really appreciated just how possible it is to feel homesick for a place which isn't physically home- rather instead, a location or set of surroundings where you feel one hundred percent content. 

For me, that place is Northern Ireland. Somewhere I feel I can call my spiritual home, if not my physical one. Growing up, I made a handful of trips over to see my family (including my truly glorious grandmother), but, as is always the way with childhood, you never really appreciate it until you look back on it in retrospect. It's only really now, having been back a few times as an adult, that I've really been able to absorb the culture which has subtly informed so much of the way I see the world- from an appreciation of high tea to something much harder to define- an almost spiritual affinity with the landscape and the people; an unspoken understanding that in this particular place, everything is exactly as it should be, and the world is perfectly balanced. 

It's also a feeling which I've really been missing since I've got home from my most recent trip over earlier in the year. I miss being able to see the beach and smell the sea air, I miss how green everything is, I miss being able to eat my bodyweight in Tayto crisps in the back of a car with some of the best company. Most of all I think I miss the sense of welcome and warmth radiated by everybody there- something which I grew up surrounded by (and which I hope I've inherited!), and which I've only now come to appreciate as traits which are not commonplace at all- in fact, quite the opposite, especially if my experiences with the majority of the commuting pubic in London are anything to go by! There are moments during my days where I'll find myself thinking about what that particular moment in time looks like elsewhere, and more specifically how much more content I'd feel out in the fresh air, walking along the coast or chasing waterfalls. I don't know if it's just because I'm getting old- but I think that there's a lot to be said for taking a step out of the humdrum and into something which feels more like home. 

Where do you feel most at home? 

(Image credit: Michelle Chai, please do not reproduce without permission.)


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