Belong by not belonging

Me on my sister and brother-in-law's boat in western Sweden, June 2019. Photo by Cecilia Zarins
Me on my sister and brother-in-law’s boat in western Sweden, June 2019. Photo by Cecilia Zarins

I went sailing in Sweden. My sister took me to waters and landscapes from when we were children. I wished those who never truly saw me could see me there; in my element, my environment. Perhaps they would understand more about me then. Perhaps I could understand more about myself there.

I returned to Cambridge and the writing that isn’t going well. I wondered what I’m doing here, when I could be on a boat, an island, or just in another university town in a country that is actually home.

For days melancholy pursued me while I longed for that mixture of home and adventure. Until I had lunch with a friend who said that she’d dreamt of an important message to tell me. This friend believes in stuff like God, so I sometimes take her advice with a pinch of salt. But she said that she had read about a New York-based artist, who was always referred to as a New York-based, despite her Israeli upbringing. The artist had built her entire career around that identity of being linked to place of her choosing, rather than the place of her birth. Her work and her self revolved around belonging by not belonging. And that was the message from my friend’s dream.

And I remembered the decision of 19 year old me that has shaped my entire life – work and self – since then. The decision to make a home in an adventure, to move to England and belong, while never truly belonging, and only be in Sweden as a visitor, not truly belonging there either. Few people share this experience. No wonder they don’t see me, when they don’t understand me.

The sun parted the clouds, and we put our sunglasses on in the warmth.

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