Where Do I Belong? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 30, 2008
A few days ago, I saw a tiny black ant making its way up the pink-tiled wall of my bathroom. Oddly amused, I watched this little creature climb up three feet and then fall to the floor. I found two things ­extremely shocking. First, I had never seen an ant fall; second, I was actually getting worried about the little guy, and tried to ­explain to him that he had to stay away from the vertical lines of grout. Never mind the fact that I was talking to an ant.

But the most amazing part was that just a second after falling from well over 500 times his height, this little ­genius found his way back to the wall and started climbing again. One would think that he would ­either hurt himself or learn a lesson, but he insisted on going up that wall again and again. And he kept falling, keeping me ­absolutely mesmerized, as though I had witnessed Medusa herself and not an ant, hypothesizing as to where exactly he was trying to go.

Finally, I gave up and went on to what I had to do that day. My final theory was that he was simply trying to get home, because it was already quite late, and he seemed to be scurrying along in the general direction of the crack between the window and the wall. I guess I’ll never know whether he made it.

There is, however, a point to my ant story: In the summer after sophomore year, I took a rather uncommon and ­extensive vacation – to a post-Communist developing country. Having been born and raised in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, I was, on the one hand, returning home to visit my grandparents. But as soon as my mom and I stepped into the Bishkek airport, I realized how out of place I felt.

My mom was right at home, speaking her native language with the people she spent most of her life with. But I spoke Russian hesitantly and with an accent, and insisted on talking to my mom in English. The place I had once called home had become a foreign country, and that little girl was now an American – a dreadful thing to be in a Russian-speaking Asian country.

When I returned to my now well-­appreciated South Florida town, I once again felt like a stranger in a place I had called home. I realized that I wasn’t like most of my friends, who had been born in Fort Lauderdale and spent their entire childhood in the suburbs. I had come from an alien world and could ­never be a flag-waving American.

Sometimes, you see, I feel just like that ant on my bathroom wall. I try to get home but the world is so big and dangerous that I don’t even know where home is. Yet I keep trying and trying, no matter how many times I trip over the grout and fall to the floor, because I’m convinced that eventually I will reach a place that will really be my home – not my mother’s and not my stepfather’s, and not my best friend’s.

My visit to – and return from – Bishkek taught me, among other things, that I will never feel truly at home – ­either in the U.S. or in Kyrgyzstan. I ­realize I must let go of both the places I have called home. Caught between two cultures and belonging to neither, I have to focus not on what country I’m from or what language I speak, but on who I am. And though not belonging isn’t ­exactly the best teenage condition, I am beginning to understand it is actually to my advantage to be an outsider. In my cosmopolitan epiphany, I may have lost a national flag or two, but I gained something truly worthwhile – an irreplaceable freedom of the soul that can never be taken from me.

That’s not to say, however, that I’ve ­given up scaling that pink-tiled wall. But that little crack between the window and the wall isn’t a country or a house anymore; it’s me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 37 comments. Post your own now!

serqio said...
Sept. 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm
This was well composed. I love the way you compared your self to an ant and found a similiarity with it. The ending was really good too. 4.5/5 :)
Omega said...
Mar. 27, 2012 at 8:09 am
Good job. Me and a lot of my friends can relate to not fitting in, and not knowing our places in the world. I like your point of view and your example of using the ant.
HotChai said...
Dec. 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm
I loved your essay, and I feel like I can relate to you in so many ways. I, too, have watched ants for long periods of time, wondering what their purpose is. I was born in Oregon, but I grew up in Bishkek and lived there for 9 years. And I've also felt like that ant on the wall. I've struggled to find where my home is and have often been frustrated when my friends don't understand my history (I now live in America). I don't know if I'll ever find a true home country, but it's nice to know that t... (more »)
xOutOfTheShadowsX said...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm
Wow... You definitly got an A on that essay! Nice Job. And you should check out some of my writing. 
Loved said...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

wow oh wow , along with a few other people that commented, I cant tell you how much I liked & can relate to this. I saw some humor as well, which is always nice (:

Job well done. LOVEDDDDDDDD the concept about you being the "crack" too.

PigglyGiggly said...
Oct. 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm
mermaid said...
Jul. 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm
ILuvMermaid replied...
Aug. 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm
nice nice nice nice
IamtheStargirl said...
Jul. 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Though I was born and raised in pretty much the same, remote state in the USA my whole life, I can really relate to you and your story. I have never belonged anywhere, but that's okay, I have created my own place.

Great writing! I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

Thinker said...
Jun. 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm
I feel the same way and I was born and raised in the same place... another one for irony. Great piece, just remember the cheesey american "Frog-ficton" lesson, "Home is where the heart is..."
realcritic.com said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm
i found your essay to show that you are pessimistic. it also shows you struggle with identity.
Pearl La Page replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 3:40 am
This was so beautiful!
Omar replied...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 10:51 am
I find both your comments as offensive as dumb. You both are clearly clueless about the identity struggle for people like us, without a place/culture to call home. The emptiness I feel is just dreadful.
josexper said...
Mar. 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm
Your essay is so beautiful.
It spoke to me.
I was born in the US but I went to
Mexico and I stayed there for a long time.
4 years ago I came back, I just didn't feel comfortable in here. Last summer I went back to Mexico and I wanted to come back right after I got home.
I just fell the way you feel. Sometimes is hard, but oh well, I have to keep going.
Again your essay was amazing, beautiful.
Mowen. said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm
Holy WOW. This is amazing.
IzabellaStormfire said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 10:56 am
Absolutely beautiful!! I was born in OKC and have lived here all my life, but your essay still speaks to me, and that is an amazing talent. You truly write from the heart, and that allows people like me to share your heart. Thank you so much, from all of us.
turn_it_up(: said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 9:18 am
wow. this was too amazing for words. (:
MorrighanPoe said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm
I wish I could put out my own emotions as prosaically and beautifully as you have. Wonderful job!
kyle628 replied...
Aug. 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm
Prosaic means boring?
Vampyro said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm
That was amazing! It really makes me think.
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback