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The area I grew up in instils a strong sense of belonging. I've grown up with songs about the city, its people, and customs, most of them written in dialect. Although I've never actually lived within the city and I'm no longer living in the area, when people ask me about my favourite place, my answer never changes. I'd bet it never will. Love for my home has been a constant in my life, before I even knew the meaning of the word.

I still catch myself gaining a deeper understanding of songs I've been listening to for years. The lyrics I misunderstood as a child and never questioned. Have you learned a foreign language? Go back to a song you thought you knew well. Maybe you'll find that, though you have memories of singing along, you now flounder, realising what is actually being sung. It's disconcerting. You wonder what else you think you know by heart, but don't actually understand. As much as it frightens me, I treasure it as well. It shows how true love can be, even in uncertainty.

In hindsight, I can track my growth by the ideas I had about those songs. The changes in my personality and my understanding of life. Love for a place turned into a love of belonging and familiarity. My longing to visit has never vanished, but has become bearable after I realised it's not just the location I love. Love for the people turned into love of their approach to life, love of community and being there for each other. I've since found other places with like-minded people, people who feel like they share something with me, where I can laugh with strangers. I've learned to take the customs and values with me, to not adapt in that regard, but keep a part of my home in my heart and let it lead me.

Love of this calibre allows for conflict, of course. It's taken me years to understand the meaning behind the words I know so well. I've felt guilt for not being unhappy somewhere else, and doubt over my belonging to what I consider my home. Shame, when the relaxed attitude about life, the lazy optimism I learned, was overpowered by depression. I felt unworthy. The process was difficult, but I learned. Those doubts are a shield now. I remember that, even when I don't feel like it, things are bound to change and work themselves out. Mistakes happen, chances are lost. There are set-backs and grief and adversity, but as long as you live, you've not reached the end. It helps me stop worrying about what is beyond my control.

You're allowed to love and identify with things without the nagging worry of not being enough. What others think doesn't matter. Allow yourself to feel joy. It's not something you can be unworthy of. I allow my words to be happy and safe. With the hold they have over me, anything else spells danger. I feel full when I hear them. They can distract me when I'm not happy. Hearing people speak the dialect makes me feel giddy and at peace. Crossing the river into the city after being away still forces a smile on my face. I'll make sure it always will.

© Anna Kleinschmidt 2022-08-16


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