Sculpture by Bale Creek Allen
I keep looking for belonging, and I can't find it. I know in my mind that I should feel like I belong, but in my heart I don't. My language, my country, my people, my family. Everything changed, and changed again, and every time I think I found it, it escapes me. I keep searching. Why do I keep searching? It's exhausting. Why can't I stop? Why can't I be content with what I have? Something is missing. It's like I don't have roots and simply drift. I don't have history. Don't have traditions. I change and adapt like a chameleon and I keep changing, keep looking for a new color. Maybe this will be it. No. Then maybe this. No, not this either.
It is perhaps the pain of every immigrant, to give up the place of birth and to wander to new places only to miss the old, the faraway, the familiar.
I have lived a total of eighteen years in Russia, four years in Germany, and this November it will be eighteen years in America. The next year I will have lived longer in America than in the country of my birth. I'll truly feel American then. Will I? I don't know. I no longer understand the Russian ways when I encounter Russians, and I have yet to fully understand the American ways after living here for almost half of my life. And so I hide in books. Writing books. Reading books. It's what I've done since I've learned how to read, at the age of four.
I wonder if this yearning for belonging will ever leave me or change into something I can understand and accept, and maybe move past it. What is it? Perhaps recognition. Validation. But I get that. From YOU. You tell me my writing has touched you, changed your lives. Then why? Why do I keep searching? What is it that won't let me grow roots?
I wish I knew. Sometimes I think maybe it's really me, the rolling tumbleweed in the desert, and that desert is the walks of my life that have long since dried, but I imagine it not so. I imagine the roots I never had and write them into stories. Maybe they are my roots. Maybe that's where I belong. Maybe they are enough to validate my work. Maybe I am enough and rooted, even when I'm on the move, even when I'm not still.
I haven't met most of you face to face, and yet I feel connected to you more than to people in my life whom I shared kitchens and bathrooms and conversations. For some reason the words you speak to me are enough to hold me steady, and in that moment I find peace and stop looking. I belong.
It must be the sense of family I never had that I'm mourning. Or wishing for. Or hurting over. The family that accepts me as I am and tells me that I'm enough, that I'm important, that my work is needed. You are my family, YOU, my readers. I have to remind myself of this fact, and I just did.
Thank you. Thank you for loving me like no one loved me before. Thank you for giving me space to be me. Thank you for telling me that you need my words. Thank you for pushing me to keep going. Thank you for taking me into your arms and making me feel at home.
I love you.