When first posed that question, “Do you belong here at Carleton?” it seems inevitable that we sink into a moment of reflection. Some people will begin to count how many friends they’ve made or how many clubs they’ve joined. Others, perhaps, will begin to build a defense based on their test scores and application essays. There are so many facets to this problematic yet ever-present feeling of ‘belonging.’ Despite its omnipresence and importance, it only surfaces when asked: “Do you belong?”
For many first-years, life is already such a whirlwind that figuring out the esoteric nature of their social standing here at Carleton is an immediate backseat issue. Even if we wanted to implore ourselves to answer the question, what would we say? Would we make a list of all of our acquaintances, and explain how comfortable we are around each? Do we list all the clubs and teams we got into and rank them against those we were rejected from? Is there a metric of belonging other than this gut-feeling that we get every-so-often?
My argument here is not that this feeling is not important, but that it’s so unrecognizable that if we continue to ask ourselves a question we cannot answer will we ever feel like we belong? If we continue to question our place will we ever settle into it? When I was first invited to write this, I asked some of my floormates how they felt and one answer from one of my international friends struck me: “It is like I am in a dream. It’s like I’m not paying attention and then BAM. I’m here.” Her answer resonated with me because I never questioned whether I belonged until I was asked.
And perhaps it brings out the crux of the issue of belonging, because when asked, the idea of belonging seems further away than anything else, and harder to understand than the Weitz floor plan, but when we bring it in close, it’s close to our hearts and warm in our arms. But then we are asked if we truly belong and the sense of being an imposter seeps in. So, if I am ever to reach a conclusion, I guess instead of an answer, I would offer a warning. Everyday, in small ways and big, we do and say things to ask people if they belong. We can exclude. We can haze. We can ignore. So if I am to end this tangent, in a cute and succinct way, I would ask you, “Have you asked anyone if they belonged today?”
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