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Some people know where they belong. However, for many of us, finding our place in the world has challenged our thinking.

Apr 19, 2019

Words: Hattie Wentworth

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Some people just know. Career choices are no-brainers, love lives fall into place and money comes easy. Some have innate ease with which they move through life. Timelines for holidays, houses and having children are set out.

Some people even know what they are going to cook for dinner for next week.

Some people know where they belong. However, for many of us, finding our place in the world has challenged our thinking. —

I moved to Melbourne from country Victoria in the summer of 2015. It was just before my twentieth birthday. I was following the same natural progression that my siblings and many of my older role models had laid out before me. The city was no longer something to chase or dream about. The city was now my home.

The ‘city’, to a girl who had grown up in Gippsland, didn’t just mean skyscrapers and bustling streets. It meant arts, music, culture and coffee. The goddamn coffee! The city signified opportunities, growth, career and progress. You see, I was going to university to become a writer. Heck, I was going to be the next Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. So, when I packed my tiny car full of almost everything I owned and drove off into the metaphorical sunset, it meant, beyond all else, a chance to express myself in a way a small town couldn’t allow me. My ticket to freedom; the city was going to have my answers. Until it didn’t.

Naturally, the next few years were ones of growth and change, and halfway through my studies, when I began feeling muddled and unsure if what I had once yearned for so badly was still what I wanted, I took some time off to travel. I wanted to find the clarity that evaded me in Melbourne, but unfortunately another year later when the end of university rolled around, I still didn’t know where I was at.

I felt I had lost my drive and wasn’t completely ready to step from uni life into the 9–5 world. There was no way, not when routine scared me more than instability ever could. I was still young and restless, working casual hospitality jobs, doing some freelance writing and often eating breakfast for dinner. I decided to move out of the concrete jungle where I was increasingly feeling trapped and I headed back off overseas, once again searching for clarity.

Surprise! I didn’t find it.

Now, I’m back to what feels like the beginning, living in humble Gippsland and as restless as I’ve ever been. Throughout the years, different things have come in and out of my life that has fulfilled and satisfied my restlessness, and provided an outlet to focus my energy and search for answers: moving away to study, my relationships, long periods of travel, exercise, work and personal projects. Then something creeps its way into my psyche to shake it all loose and it feels again that things are not right, that there must be something more or better. Whether it’s intuition, sometimes experiences or education that opens your eyes, once they are open, they don’t want to shut.

Perhaps the biggest and most daunting question is what will I do? Not just my career path, but how will I contribute to society and create a life that is not only prosperous but one that aligns with my values and desires?

The more I posed this notion of ‘un-belonging’ to other Gippsland-based millennials, the less alone I felt in my views. Often, belonging didn’t necessarily mean knowing exactly where you’re meant to be and having it all figured out. To some, it’s about following a passion without hiding who they are. To others, belonging is about looking for meaning beyond the self and the ego, and within seemingly mundane activities of life: how they feel when they are working in the garden, making art or swimming in the ocean. And sometimes making big changes and trying new things that you believe are going to be the answer just don’t work out. But frequently, they do lead to something or somewhere you feel you are meant to be. Perhaps our individualistic culture encourages us to look for belonging in the wrong places.

In our modern world, it is so easy to compare our lives to others’, but I suspect there is no right or wrong answer. The options are so vast for our generation that settling on one place and one career is terrifying. A report released by the Foundation for Young Australians argues that it’s more likely that a millennial will experience a portfolio career, potentially having 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime. The research has revealed that traditional, linear career trajectories are rapidly becoming an antiquated notion.

This is not overly surprising when the rise of social media has made us feel as though we are constantly missing out on something too. There is always this lingering question of have I made the right choice? The online world provides a platform where we can see opportunity and a world that older generations weren’t exposed to. The world has shrunk. We ask, why would I sit here in this little pocket of life when there’s so much more out there? Everything is accessible. The world is close and the opportunities seemingly endless.

So, are we a restless generation? Are we opportunists or just never satisfied? Unsettled or passionate? Careless or too caring? Or, are the opportunities just bigger, the boundaries wider and the walls smaller? Perhaps we are a wonderful mix of all. As we change, grow and evolve, so do our needs and our interests. Something I have learned is that the more you know where you don’t belong, the closer you are to finding the place you do.

With my family, roots, childhood and youth intertwined with Gippsland, it has always acted as a ‘home’ in the physical sense. It’s where I’ve come back to before setting out on each different path again. It’s served as an outlet and an escape from the city when I have felt like I needed to breathe fresh air again.

My current ‘quest’ for meaning is through converting a commercial van into a camper and, well, a home. Maybe this van and life on the road is the vehicle to finding what I’m looking for. Or, maybe it’s not. But do you know what? Either way, it’s alright, because not knowing excites me. It keeps me searching, exploring and asking questions, and maybe that’s the best you can hope for at 24.

Keep on un-belonging x

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