Somewhere I belong

May 12, 2015

In my last post I talked about how members of a community are expected to follow some basic rules in order to make that community thrive. And that’s one of the requirements for a successful community. And what do members of a community get out of said membership? A sense of belonging. Humans are social animals by design. It is in our nature to thrive in a group of like-minded individuals rather than in a solitary setting. And while we’re surrounded by people, we subconsciously seek their approval and confirmation. Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to answer a question a particular way when informed that their neighbors have picked that particular answer. And while some individuals can thrive under solitary conditions, most people when left alone quickly yearn for company, any company. Which is why solitary confinement is the most severe form of punishment for misbehaviour in (most) prisons.

I haven’t truly felt a sense of belonging anywhere since primary school. I was a popular kid back then and had lots of friends. Then my parents made me change schools to another one. And that school was supposed to be the continuation-school of a different primary school, and they had a policy by which they would never accept any students who hadn’t attended that particular primary school. But my parents obstinately refused to back down, and I suppose my academic record also helped convince the school officials to grant me admission. And so it came to be that I was literally the only new kid in a class composed of guys who’d known one another for four years. And it didn’t help that I did consistently better than their poster boys and supplanted them at the top of the class. A friend of mine told me in confidence after we’d graduated that even my handful of friends didn’t actually like me and found me callous and arrogant.

When the time came for me to go to college, I’d topped the entrance exam to BITS Pilani (not tooting my own horn here, I did horribly in the IIT entrance) and wanted to study Computer Science. But my parents were convinced that computers were just a “bubble” (hah!) and signed me up for electronics instead, a subject I wasn’t interested in at all. So I spent four years hanging out with the electronics crowd, studying topics that put me to sleep and surrounded by people talking about things I couldn’t understand. The only glimpses I got of the people I wanted to be with were during the optional computer science courses I took.

After college, I’ve been employed twice; once at Infinera and currently at Amazon. There are no reasons why I shouldn’t feel a sense of belonging now, but maybe it’s simply some baggage that I’ve carried over from the earlier years. That’s my second-greatest fear at the moment: that I’ll never find a place where I belong. And my greatest fear? That my life won’t amount to anything meaningful.