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.

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This article has 37 comments. Post your own now!

ilovetinkerbell said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm
I love it. Great job.
kakashi1992 said...
Dec. 20, 2009 at 7:57 pm
Wow... I wrote a very similar essay about my singaporean-american heritage... this reminded me very much of it. GREAT ESSAY. =)
high-school drop-out said...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 6:12 pm
Everything you receive from the United States YOU have the responsibility to invest back in her, "hold her hand and guide her". I wonder if in your college career and adult life you will look at the Americans around you and feel a sense of superiority- that you can do anything you want with us- as I feel many of the newest American citizens, especially the college graduates, do.
I also am of indeterminant culture and race and am always asking my Father "what is my place?... (more »)
emrldshine replied...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm
I agree..You have a responsebility to give back to the society from which you received so much and it makes no difference that you're not fully American..
After all, Home is where the heart is right?
high-school drop-out replied...
Dec. 18, 2009 at 7:35 pm
Dear emrldshine, Did you like the story about the kid who was not notified of his lifelong role? I left off the last part of my Dad's interpretation of a S-F book he had read in the past because it was inchoate in my mind. This part is that the officer tells the kid to write his books SO his books can be included with the other writen works that have already been completed. I just read a great book by an architect named Robert Maxwell called "The Two Way Stretch". It is the first... (more »)
celloizmylife replied...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm
This was an inspiring piece, even if my culture can't relate to it at all! You're an amazing author! However, I had to disagree a little. People can so easily fit in with Americans because the U.S. is such a hodgepodge it doesn't really have one culture. Don't they call it a melting pot? And home is just where you hang your hat. You can always choose to be from wherever you want to be from. Making the choice, however, is the hard part. But who says you can't be from tw... (more »)
screenname! said...
Nov. 2, 2009 at 4:48 pm
Wow! You're a great writer...I wish I know how to write like you :) And guess what: I live in Fort Lauderdale too :)
confusednature said...
Oct. 30, 2009 at 9:32 pm
I love the comparison you made here with yourself and the ant. That feeling of displacement had to be awkward but instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you found an alternative side to it. I really liked this essay!
Avalynn replied...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm
agreed! and this essay is aaaamazing!!!
charzard said...
Oct. 10, 2009 at 7:17 am
your ant story made me smile. this peice is great. i can relate to this well. nice job! :)
Zad B. said...
Sept. 19, 2009 at 5:27 am
I can absolutely relate to this. It pratically felt like it was me speaking!
This is a wonderful essay, Anastasia
Marcos said...
Mar. 14, 2009 at 5:59 am
Very smartly written Anastasia, thank you. Are the winters in Florida making you long for a quiet snowed in day near a fireplace to ponder? Thanks for sharing. Marc
pizzabox said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 11:00 pm
Wow! I have never read anything like this. It's scary how much I relate to your article.
Thank you for the insight.
Micaela said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 2:34 am
you've put into words very eloquently that lost feeling of the multicultural. I know your sentiments exactly.
SarynJumail said...
Dec. 31, 2008 at 10:33 pm
This was absolutely brilliant! I loved it.
I'm a sophomore, and I still don't know what to write for my college entrance essay, but this has inspired me to do what you did - take it to a new level, and write something outside the norm.
Excellent work, and thanks for the inspiration!
tweedle dee said...
Dec. 30, 2008 at 11:32 pm
love it i've felt this way before
thanks for the new view on my own life!
LallaBooy said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 7:48 pm
You home is where your heart is!
Latin proverb :)
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