By Kristen Cramer
Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? I’d wager we have all felt like that at some point…or at many points. I know I have. Whether it’s in school, a club, religious organization, political party, sports team, friend group, neighborhood, or something else, we just don’t always feel like we belong.
To belong to something suggests a feeling of fitting in, or being in the right place. We aren’t going to feel like we belong everywhere. This world is full of such a variety of wonderful people with unique personalities, interests, cultures, causes, backgrounds, and dreams that there’s no way we will always feel belonging in the same situations. That’s okay! What’s important (in my experience) is that you have a place or places that you DO feel like you belong.
Before moving to Provo, I considered Utah County, and more specifically Provo, as the last place I would want to live. I thought of it as an enclave of BYU students and alumni; a homogenous sea of like minded people living similar lives and cheering for the Cougars. Work brought our family here (ever so reluctantly), and here we have stayed for almost 12 years. While this certainly isn’t the most diverse place to live, it is a far cry from the stereotype I had of the city. I have found people I connect with, my kids have found friends, and we have found a community full of things our family loves. We love the river trail, all the parks, the proximity to the mountains, the people, and a chance to live near many of the places we frequent. We have found people willing to welcome us and we have even found a sense of belonging here.
As newlyweds, my husband and I lived where there was immense diversity within the neighborhood. We did not have much in common with many of our neighbors including sexual orientation, nationality, marital status, age bracket, religion, and more. But you know what? We still had much in common with these people and we felt welcome, included, and a part of something bigger than ourselves. We have treasured memories of the people in this wonderful neighborhood.
Conversely, we have lived where the homogenous nature of the community was mind boggling: the vast majority of people shared our religion, race, marital status, and life stage. Yet in this community we struggled to find belonging and did not always feel welcome. There were wonderful people living in this neighborhood as well, but it was a relief when we moved.
What these experiences have taught me is you really never know where you will feel welcome or where you will find a sense of belonging. It’s up to each of us to give people and places a chance. Get to know others and explore what you have in common and learn from your differences.
I hope that everyone is able to find places and groups in which they feel welcome, valued, and where they feel a sense of belonging. Best wishes on your journeys!
Kristen Cramer has lived in Provo for over a decade. She is the wife of an amazing husband, mother to three incredible children, and is passionate about doing good. She also enjoys photography, hiking, gardening, and reading.