Cornerstone Content

Belong

  • May 22, 2020
Thomas Slatin, July 15, 1981

Minutes of daylight, as the minutes turn into hours, is the parlance of our time. Everytime I look in the mirror, I see myself staring right back at me; a fleeting glimpse of myself going round and round on a carousel cusp of why.

I will never understand why my parents moved me around a lot. I was around eight years old when my parents moved me out of my birth place of New York City, and I had to change schools for the first time; I was in third grade. After grade seven, my parents moved me to a different school where I completed eighth grade. Grades nine through twelve were spent at boarding school, which I absolutely despised.

Life was supposed to be so easier when I was young.  It wasn’t.  I never thought I would ever see the day when I would be forced to trade my childhood heroes for ghosts. I sometimes dream from time to time, of days long ago, straight line from the days when I was still very young.

Thomas Slatin, NYC

My childhood was filled with a lot of happy times, though well hidden was the abuse, neglect, abandonment, and molestation at the hands of others outside my family, that nobody ever talked about. Whenever I spoke up, it was often dismissed as if I was making up a story; I was oftentimes the child ignored.  As the emotional scars finally became too much for me to bear, I became complacent in the notion that I am simply mean to those who love me.

My parents had very high expectations of me. When I was very young, my parents would often tell me that I should be productive instead of having fun and simply being a child. After giving me a list of respectable career choices, they would ask me what career I wanted to pursue. Being a writer was my lifelong passion, for which Charles Kuralt and Allen Ginsberg often suggested that I pursue as my life’s work.  As far as my parents were concerned, this was clearly never an acceptable answer, as they would dream of me becoming a doctor.

Asking a child what they want to be when they grow up is very limiting, as it narrows down the possibilities to career opportunities. The better question is to ask a child who they want to be and what they dream of doing with their life. I didn’t care much about having a glamorous career or of being famous; I just wanted to be happy, to be successful at something I enjoyed, and to belong.

I spent many hours in my parents back yard, gravitating around a large maple tree in the center of the yard.  The tree itself was a focal point in my childhood.  My friends and I would take turns climbing the tree and sitting within its massive branches.  Later on the tree would host a homemade rope swing.  And then finally, it provided a quiet spot for me to write in my notebooks.  It’s not the locations that filled me with love, it was the people who were there with me that made these places truly special.

It has been decades since my birth, yet it seems that my mind was always troubled with the emptiness and feeling that I simply didn’t belong. Despite making friends, growing close to them and inevitably pushing them away when I felt as if I were growing too close.

I can be brave, I can be intense; I can be the hero, the faithful friend that everyone calls upon in time of need.  But I sometimes get tired, and I sometimes get weak.  I get sad and I don’t speak.  I can get so upset that I take out my upset on those closest to me.

I have apologized to almost everyone I know, at least once.  I recently made a promise that with the days still left, those who love me will always get nothing less than my very best.

I recently told an old friend how much they truly meant to me growing up, and how they were my childhood hero. I remember how absolutely beautiful it was to sit on their couch and cry in front of them for the first time. Despite having friends that truly care for me, I never felt as if I ever belonged growing up. For years and years I roamed, trying to find a place where I thought that I might belong, though I was unsuccessful and never ended up staying anywhere for very long.

Thomas Slatin - Hobart Fire Department EMT Firefighter - 1999

Every person is a gift, and as such are so much more than their jobs, their possessions, or bloated bank accounts. It seems the more we take, the less we become; the fortune of one can only equate with less for some. Love, the greatest thing in life, and are the feelings of the heart.

When I was a child, and later on as an adult, I would often ask myself if there would ever come a day when I would finally belong.  As the years went by, I longed to belong to something.  Anything.  When I didn’t find that ever elusive feeling of belonging, the question of belonging became an even greater issue.  The single most important question in my mind was the one without any answer.

It came upon me like a ghost in the night, scary at first then comforting, much like the feeling of a thousand hugs when suddenly I realized, I belong. I thought of a scream, but instead slowly whispered to myself, I belong, followed by a single tear of joy which slowly ran down my cheek, a feeling of calm. Calm. Belong.

Colophon
The images used in this piece came from my family photo archive.

Asides
It Came Without Warning | The Fear I Cannot Hide | Generation Gap | Keyframe | A Typical Friday’s Child | Life Is Full Of Questions And It’s Tearing Me Apart

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49 Comments on Belong

  • Pingback: July 2020 – Inclosed

  • Melavav says:
    June 28, 2020 at 9:09 AM

    The faithful friend that everyone calls upon in time of need” I like that !

    Reply

  • Freddy Javier Jabano Chacin says:
    June 27, 2020 at 6:47 PM

    Liked it a lot thomas, felt right there with you, good luck to you

    Reply

  • Mark Hansen says:
    June 24, 2020 at 5:30 PM

    Thank you for posting this. For me, it was a call to compassion.

    I read the entry with the pics from your life. It was very touching. You seem to be quite the survivor.

    Reply

  • ellainthebigcity says:
    June 20, 2020 at 10:48 AM

    This was heartbreaking to read but very beautiful x

    Reply

  • Lisa Pellegrene says:
    June 20, 2020 at 10:34 AM

    Thomas, This is very beautifully written. Your heart and bright light shines through.

    Reply

  • Kai Beck says:
    June 19, 2020 at 11:43 AM

    I think I’m a pretty critical reader.

    Rarely do I find a blog I want to read for longer than the opening paragraph.

    And yet this one drew me in, sent me through–not just this room, but–dark interconnected halls; curiosity the flashlight drawing me forever deeper.

    And I wonder too–as a survivor–just how much damage the pervasive parental ‘doctor dream’ has done.

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      June 19, 2020 at 12:35 PM

      I joined the fire service at age 18, and worked in public safety as a firefighter and medic throughout my college years. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, they dismissed it as nonsense because having a son who was a doctor was somehow superior. So I left college just short of earning a degree and pursued my own dreams. I worked regular fire department and rescue jobs for just short of 18 years, at which time I was promoted to Lieutenant.

      By this time I had finally saved enough money to pursue my dream of being a full-time writer and photographer, which is the career I currently have. And I shouldn’t need to remind you that being a writer and a photographer is far less stressful than the fire service.

      Reply

      • Kai Back says:
        June 19, 2020 at 1:52 PM

        Must have been pretty traumatic (and I guess you joined pretty soon after 9/11?). You must have a wealth of observation and experience to draw on for your writing though.

        I often wish I knew I wanted to (still) be a writer during med school and during my years as a doctor; so much of that was spent on autopilot and yet could have been a endless treasure trove of material to draw from.

        Reply

        • Thomas Slatin says:
          June 19, 2020 at 2:03 PM

          Actually I joined in 1998, so had already put in my time a few years prior to September 11, 2001. In 2002 I landed a job in NYC as an EMT. Unfortunately, the experiences I have to draw from are often off-limits to write about, let alone publish. But if I was able to, I’m not sure that most people would want to learn the realities of the job of being a Firefighter or EMT.

          Reply

        • Thomas Slatin says:
          June 19, 2020 at 3:12 PM

          No, actually I was an EMT Firefighter back in 1998. Nobody could have ever predicted or anticipated 9/11.

          I wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old, though my parents tried their best to steer me in the direction of a more lucrative career.

          Reply

  • Christine says:
    June 18, 2020 at 9:02 PM

    What an incredible read. Haunting and so raw. Looking forward to reading more from you. You have a great gift. Don’t stop writing. Ever. This is where you belong.

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      June 18, 2020 at 9:06 PM

      Wow! I am so totally thankful and grateful! All I ever wanted my entire life was to write and to actually have someone tell me that my writing was meaningful and important! Thank you so much!!! To feel like one finally belongs is perhaps the greatest feeling next to love.

      Reply

      • Christine says:
        June 18, 2020 at 9:14 PM

        You really capture the readers attention from the get go. There’s a delicacy in your writing and the entwined poetic expression really sinks in beautifully. I’m so glad I’ve been introduced to your work. It’s very special and deserves to be read, heard and felt.

        Reply

        • Thomas Slatin says:
          June 18, 2020 at 9:18 PM

          When I was a child, my father introduced me to two people who influenced my writing; Allen Ginsberg, Charles Kuralt. Both suggested that I devote my life to writing. So I started writing at age 8 and never stopped. Now, decades later, I’ve finally devoted my life to writing!

          Reply

  • Mary Ruffcorn Bixby says:
    June 12, 2020 at 10:14 AM

    Are you going to turn Belong into a book, I hope so. Your picture is adorable!

    I enjoyed the article very much, but it makes me want to read more. Tom, your talent is a gift that I’m glad you’re sharing. Take care, my friend..

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      June 12, 2020 at 10:14 AM

      I love you so much, Mary! Thanks for your encouragement! I will let you know if this turns into a book.

      Reply

  • Dick Woodhouse says:
    June 7, 2020 at 11:46 PM

    All this is why I love you. You have proudly weathered the storm. I clearly remember your crayon drawings and words on the Bank St dining room wall. Your Mom smiled and said they could stay forever, or the day might come when it was OK to paint the wall
    Freedom!
    Wonderful, loving parents!
    I thought the world of your Dad. I still love and cherish the childhood and adult memories with your Mom. Her beautiful childhood home with the Revolutionary War canonball in the wall of the house.
    Yes Tom. You are a joy. I am thankful you and your family are and have been in my life . Thsnk you

    Reply

    • Thomas Slatin says:
      June 9, 2020 at 11:02 PM

      I’ve been writing for 30+ years, and can honestly say, without reservation, that this comment is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received!

      And by the way, my name is still written on the downstairs wall of my childhood home in New York City; I refuse to let anyone paint over it. I will have to get a picture of it next time I’m there.

      Every time I’m visiting my childhood home, I play music from the 1980’s because it reminds me of when both of my parents were still around, before my dad passed away. I oftentimes hear the things he said to me in my mind when I’m there.

      Also, the cover image was a Polaroid that my mom took in the back yard. The yard still looks exactly like it did when the picture was taken!

      Reply

  • Sylvia says:
    June 7, 2020 at 8:52 PM

    The ending is so beautiful. A sign of hope and the determination to belong!

    Reply

  • Storm says:
    June 7, 2020 at 8:51 PM

    How kind of you to share your story as well as some of your photos from back in the day. I shed a tear reading this.

    Reply

  • Anderson says:
    June 7, 2020 at 8:49 PM

    Despite the difficulties we all go through, we should use them as stepping stones and not stumbling blocks. Your childhood story is a good show of this.

    Reply

  • Shantel says:
    June 7, 2020 at 8:48 PM

    Reading this story, I have to say that the end justified the means. You passed through it all.

    Reply

  • Louis says:
    June 7, 2020 at 8:47 PM

    Your story resonates with a lot of people’s childhood stories and is very relatable. You are strong to have turned out the way you did.

    Reply

  • Teddy says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:36 PM

    I feel inspired after reading this. I needed it a lot.

    Reply

  • Daphne says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:34 PM

    Oh My God! I simply can’t get over how lovely your childhood pics are! Please do share more of these.

    Reply

  • Oliver says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:33 PM

    From the looks of it, you had a really good childhood. Your parents were very loving!

    Reply

  • Patricia says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:33 PM

    It is always a delight to read your life stories Tom. How kind of you to always share 🙂

    Reply

  • Meg W says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:31 PM

    Wow, thanks for sharing those lovely childhood photos. I like how you haven’t changed a bit!

    Reply

  • Roy says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:30 PM

    You were so cute when you were young. That photo is adorable!

    Reply

  • Jose granadillo says:
    June 7, 2020 at 5:37 PM

    Sensational! That you have found your place where you feel that you belong. Really thanks for sharing your anecdotes. You inspire me.

    Reply

  • Clarissa says:
    June 7, 2020 at 3:52 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing wonderful memories Tom and how you dealt with life way back then. It’s nice to know you more now that you finally found your place where you belong.

    Reply

  • Prince says:
    June 7, 2020 at 2:18 PM

    Thanks you Thomas for always been the best fashion of you. It all boils down to commitment and proper upbringing. We all can be all we aspire to be

    Reply

  • Mark Janeo says:
    June 7, 2020 at 1:58 PM

    Nobody can ever tell that you will be so fruitful throughout everyday life. You stayed humble and that is the best character you have.

    Reply

  • Glad says:
    June 7, 2020 at 11:10 AM

    So sad to know that your childhood was not so pleasant to you, I also don’t like the idea of moving kids from one school to another. But, my joy is that you finally realised yourself and belonged.

    Reply

  • Danielle M says:
    June 7, 2020 at 10:36 AM

    I love your chilhood pictures Tom, it loookslike you were a happy boy

    Reply

  • Meldred Judith says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:54 AM

    No one can ever tell that you will be so successful in life. You remained humble and that’s the best character you have.

    Reply

  • Wilson Jake says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:47 AM

    The fact that life wasn’t easy with you when you where young made you a better person. I love this story, you are so lucky and gifted

    Reply

  • gail says:
    June 7, 2020 at 7:15 AM

    it was such a wonderful personal story. it was amazing that you shared it with us.

    Reply

  • Janine Bocateja says:
    June 7, 2020 at 6:12 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story Tom. Such an incredible feeling when you finally got what you really wanted and found the place where you truly belong. Gives peace of mind. Happy for you.

    Reply

  • Alyssa C. says:
    June 7, 2020 at 4:32 AM

    You write so beautifully. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

  • Oyeyipo Oladele says:
    June 7, 2020 at 2:33 AM

    We all have out stories to tell. Thanks for sharing your own part for more experience. Tom your are special.

    Reply

  • conrad pranze villas says:
    June 7, 2020 at 2:16 AM

    People oftentimes have it hard especially if they are looking for someplace where they belong. I hope people will find that the best place to find that is in our heart.

    Reply

  • vikram parmar says:
    June 7, 2020 at 12:53 AM

    It is such a nice feeling to feel the tranquil effect. I need to have the similar feeling of calm.

    Reply

  • Cyranny says:
    June 6, 2020 at 9:23 PM

    Thank you for sharing these very personal memories, Thomas 🙂

    Reply

  • Frames Of Life Blog says:
    June 5, 2020 at 12:40 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story of belonging. Sometimes, we spend so much time searching for belonging, only to find out that we belong to ourselves. Maybe it’s not always about the clique, maybe it’s us that we finally found peace.

    Reply

  • Paul says:
    June 5, 2020 at 12:39 PM

    Thank you for writing.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Belonging… Something I struggle with.

    Reply

  • Mary Ruffcorn Bixby says:
    June 5, 2020 at 11:51 AM

    Oh my gosh, that made me cry! It was beautiful. What a wonderful feeling to feel you belong and the calming effect. Some day I hope to have the same feeling of belonging and calm. Thomas, you are so gifted. Take care.

    Reply

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