All of us at some points in our lives more than others have the need to belong. When you move to a foreign country, that need becomes even stronger as you get caught in a different dimension where you don’t seem to feel completely identified with your home country nor with your new space. You begin a trip of soul-searching that doesn’t end with the plane landing at your final destination or even after you have unpacked your stuff. The need for friendship is never greater than at this time.
Luckily for me, when I came to the U.S. I immediately identified myself with the new international students at my university and although the main thing we had in common back in orientation was our accent and the fact that we were all in a new world, being with them made me feel that I belonged somewhere. Later I found friends in the people with whom I shared my apartment, then some classmates, then my now husband, and after graduation, with the people I worked with.
I think that so much of who we are is the group of people we associate ourselves with. That is why learning a new culture, even if it is that of a new office, it’s a crucial step in feeling like you belong somewhere. After having spent so many years outside of Mexico, my feeling of belonging has diminished greatly keeping me identified and connected only with my closest family members and my even closer friends. So searching for people to connect with in the place where I physically find myself, is crucial to feel like you are part of something.
I discovered that as you meet more people with whom you interact in your daily life, there is no time and energy to keep up with the people who were your friends before but who you don’t see and rarely keep in touch with. It is proximity, whether physical, emotional or both that gives you a sense of friendship, that feeling of belonging to a group.
After I got married, got a job and established myself more as an immigrant than a visitor in this country, I found that my culture at work and the friends who I frequented Happy Hour with, were really the two things outside my marriage that made me feel part of something. Sure, I will always be part of my parents and brother’s club, and that of my 4 best friends with whom I spend countless hours on the phone with, but one always needs to be able to have that face-to-face interaction to feel like there is somewhere were one belongs.
This need of association is fulfilled at many levels. It could be at the professional level knowing that you are part of the X department at the Y company; it could also be fulfilled by joining a certain club or group (which in the U.S. is the best way to meet people fast); and it is finally and most importantly fulfilled by finding people to connect at a more personal level with.
I had a pretty good sense of belonging until I had my child and suddenly it seemed that I was the only one not pursuing a career or getting a master’s degree; the only one at home dedicating my whole day to the care of my speechless baby; the only one not traveling to the most fabulous places on earth. I realized then that I had to look for a new group of people that would make me feel like I wasn’t a looser with no career goals or 5-year plans. It was then, when I found MOMS Club.
Many people, specially men, get this little smirk in their face when they ask me “what on earth do you do with your days as a stay-at-home mom?” and I answer with “I’m always busy with MOMS Club”. It is like a joke to them, they don’t understand that is not the fact that we do activities and crafts with the kids that made me join the club, but the need to fill the gap left by not having anyone to associate yourself with, the need to feel like you are part of something, the need to feel like there are many other people like you out there.
Last week, more than any other during the time that I’ve been part of the club, I was extremely happy to be involved in it as I realized that you don’t need to share your most intimate thoughts with someone to count her as a friend; you don’t have to know someone for many years before you can feel connected; you don’t need to be together all the time to have something in common; you just need to find the right group of people to find that priceless feeling of belonging.
I’m happy I found a new place where I don’t feel like a stranger anymore. Have you found yours? If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting to look for the right “club” for you?