“I’m not entirely sure if I feel like I ‘belong’,” she wrote. “And I’m not sure if I really… ever have.”

And maybe there is value in this. To ‘belong’, in the most common sense of the word, perhaps, might mean: to take for granted. One’s given, established, place[s] in the world. Easy acceptance: when people know to, and are easily able to, hold a space for you. “These are my people. This is my place.

And I (effortlessly) belong, here: there is no doubt about it.”

Does ‘belonging’ necessarily imply an effortless ‘conformity’, a seamless, frictionless ‘fitting in’? Or… is it more about that sense of… comfort of being — that sort that makes it easier to ‘be (more fully) oneself’, and to organically bloom?

To ‘belong’, maybe, feels like having a space held for you. And you are able to fill it as though you were made to do so. Niches, maybe, in family units; clubs and such, at school. Whom are you with, when you feel more ‘real’ and realistically appreciated; like you ‘belong’?

It is about some things being the same, between you, and another person (or another place). And it is about a process of carving out: about some things being different, challenging, bringing something to the whole experience, which feels more than solely comfort. At once, deep comfort and challenge; Home and Adventure. To be deeply affected by certain people, and places.

Like it was – or they were – made for you, and you were made for it (or, them). You bring something to them; they bring things, also, to you: there is much to learn, and, perhaps even without our conscious forethought, there is much to teach, also.

Always, always, always: we are affecting, and we are being affected.

I suppose I ought not to confuse this sense of ‘belonging’ that I seem to have deemed to be desirable, with only a sort of feet-up, cushions-everywhere feeling of comfort (and stagnation). Like: yes, this is your space, your place. You are so thoroughly ‘Enough’, for it, and More. It is perfectly yours, and you fit into your surroundings ‘perfectly’.

Such a sense of comfort does sound nice. But is it not better to also maybe ‘stick out’ a little, so that we can seek to bring something to the table? A couple of flowers in a rose-tinged vase; a handful of nice napkins, emerald green; a somewhat hodgepodge-y mixture of quaint-looking cutlery. You belong to each and every place, in this world, which you inhabit. And you bring things, whether you know it or not, to each person, and to each place, you come to meet. Why? Merely because you are there, as you are. Masha Allah. Which literally means: as God has willed.

The family you have belonged to: mum’s side, and dad’s. You belong within both: Masha Allah. Your neighbourhood. You belong: Masha Allah. The schools you have attended; where you have worked, and/or where you will work. A hundred percent: sin duda, you belong. Because Masha Allah!

‘Belonging’ is not necessarily about sharing the exact same attitudes, inclinations, preferences and such as your surroundings. Without a doubt, Allah has created you as an individual (who is part of greater things), complete with your countless particularities. Maybe you don’t quite see them all of the time. But, you know:

The way you sit, by yourself, in the same spot, over and over again, with the cat on your lap, to play your games and watch YouTube videos about them (somehow at the same time) and scream at me to “StoooOOooP” if I dare even come within a metre of your space [Saif]. The way you encourage me so very much with my endeavours to ‘eat healthily’, the lovingly over-the-top words of positivity and affirmation; the beams and laughter with which you greet me, no matter what [Nanu]. I have always loved that I look forward to our walks together like nothing else: they are always so subtly life-changing, so filled with something quite (quietly) untouchably beautiful; so coloured with that unmatchable attitude of mature-immaturity,

Belonging, complete with all of its silently significant changes, over time, and with its wonderful continuities [Tammay]. I love that I feel like I can call you any time, or pen you a letter, about whatever fragment of idiocy I feel the urge to discuss with you this time [Miss Twin]. I love it so much when – and that – you have things to tell, to share, with me, specifically. Out of everyone else in the world, Allah has chosen for us, specifically, to belong, in these particular ways, to one another! As my brother; as my beloved friend; as my cousins; students; aunts and uncles; grandma. And I, as your sister/friend/cousin/teacher/niece/granddaughter, also. [Extraordinarily cool beans].

To quote the Moana song:

I know,

Every-body on this island

Has a – role, on this island:

Everything is by design.

[and if you didn’t sing that in your head, while reading, then I really do not know for you]

‘Belonging’ can sometimes feel like a difficult thing to have/feel. That unique, rare (augmented-in-value-by-its-rarity) acceptance – love – for exactly, and entirely, whom you are, and as you are: (more than) the sum of all your parts. How you (here, specifically, I mean I) sometimes foolishly trip over inanimate objects… and then reflexively proceed to apologise to them. Your terribly awkward social experiences (yikes!) but… they tend to end up making for good stories (once the embarrassment subsides, at least,) no?

We: past, present, and whom we are, individually and together, (Insha Allah) always growing into. Maybe you… are known to become anxious, sometimes, and go on to ‘people-please’. Maybe you always need for someone to interact with the shopkeeper for you. Maybe your mood sometimes dips markedly, perhaps, from sunny skies, to the deepest of greys. Maybe you blurt out the wrong thing, sometimes, at the wrong times. You tend to reflexively cover your mouth, whenever you laugh; have a phobia (complete with its own interesting backstory) of red meat. Maybe, you are known to go completely quiet, and for lengthy periods, sometimes. Are struggling, perhaps, with being a responsible big brother. Who knows (but Allah, and you yourself, and the people whom you trust the most)? There are some things – parts of ourselves – which we are sometimes a little afraid to share. But know that it has been Divinely Intentional: the exact way that Allah has fashioned your being, and the very way in which others’ (people and places, that is) beings are meant to be, with and beside yours. From the precise colours of your eyes to whether you prefer the summery season, or her opposite; your favourite Meal Deal combinations from Tesco; your unique passions: the things that, quite evidently, seem to set your very mind on fire. The inside jokes you share with one another, and how much can change, quite evidently, in all but a year. And every single quiet, mundanely important thing in-between.

Do you sometimes wonder if you would, perhaps, ‘belong’ better, someplace, sometime else?

Well, what utter Hogwash! [It is Hagrid who says that, right?] Having, perhaps, practical clones of ourselves around us might assist us, somehow, on the feeling-completely-and-effortlessly-affirmed front. But we require challenge, don’t we, (to make things exciting, and) in order to learn things, and to grow. There are these entireties of we to get to know, and develop — in contrast, and in interaction and conversation with every single thing, person, and place, which and whom has been Divinely ordained both for us to (in a particular capacity) belong to, and for them to belong to us, also. These very realities are what is ours: past, present, and future; there is nothing ‘better’, out there, for us: this, and these, are what have been Chosen.

I am I, and they are they, and we are in conversation with each another, affecting one another. And these places and these people: they come to form, whether in memory or in present presence, inextricable parts of our beings.

And with every single beat that our hearts make, beautifully and with Divine Plan in mind, whomever we may be, and wherever/whenever we may be, upon these Dunya-based journeys of ours:

We belong, we belong, we belong.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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