I think is relevant to have this conversation as many migrants think it is impossible or should not redefine belonging in the new country. One of the reasons we say this could perhaps be because we don’t understand what redefining belonging is like. Or what it really means. So I hope this explanation encourages you to see you can redefine belonging.
First, let me start by explaining what belonging is not. Belonging is not about place. It is not about saying “home is back home, not my host country”. Belonging is not controlled or defined by place at all. Place alone does not develop belonging. That’s why when migrants find themselves in a different country or place they think they can not redefine it.
When I came to Australia I thought belonging was all about place. I was 100% confident that I exclusively belong back home. Home was back home. I wanted it to stay this way. I was very protective of my identity remaining attached to my country back home. This lasted for a long time. Also because I could not fit into the country. So, home was back home.
Two years after I finished my degree I actually went back home. I went back home where I belong(I thought so). But eventually, I could not feel at home, while I was at home. That is when I discovered that belonging has nothing to do with the place.
I used to attach belonging to place. It was a protective shield for me. I wanted belonging to stay that way, instead of challenging my fears and uncertainty about life in a different land. It was a protective shield from my culture shock. A protective shield for my challenges of race, and having an accent in a different country. It was a good shield for some time.
When I understood what belonging was it was liberating. I learned it had nothing to do with the place. Belonging is a mindset, a state of mind. An inner shift on how you view yourself in the new country or place. It’s about being okay with yourself, wherever you are. Nothing to do with place.
Redefining belonging is a renewal of self in a new place, not a renewal of place. I stayed in this truth. Maya Angelou explains redefining belonging well. She says: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high and the reward is great”.
This does not necessarily mean that the challenges of being in a different country suddenly disappear but it means that I am at peace with myself. Home is inside. I now know that I belong anywhere and nowhere and home can be anywhere. I am not betraying anyone or my birth country. Its freedom…to belong