Image: Dickson Phua

Image: Dickson Phua

“Our home is defined by the many footprints that we have left in the many spaces.”*

Ever since I can remember, I have always found a sense of myself, some sort of inexplicable and spiritual solace, in what I call in-between spaces. I have always felt that this is the space where I can fully be understood as myself; where on the days I feel like I am a child of everywhere but nowhere, I still find myself belonging somewhere. It is a space that manifests itself both physically, spiritually as well as mentally; a physical, mental, and spiritual location. In a world that is usually defined by normative boundaries and categories, the in-between remains the boundless, the limitless, the unrestricted space in between the defined, and the categorical.

The in-between speaks to those of us who have always felt like we belong to and are products of a charming world in its borderless form, but who at the same time, because of the ugliness we have seen in a world which relentlessly fights to keep its physical borders evident, fear it. The in-between affords us a space, physical, spiritual, mental or otherwise, where we can escape and seek answers.

Since the categories of who we are supposed to be are not clearly defined in the in-between, it affords us the opportunity to be boundless and limitless in our explorations of possibilities. The in-between thus gives us the freedom to define and develop spiritual, mental and physical identities that take in different elements from the defined worlds. In other words, in the inbetween we find a freedom to be anything we want; we define ourselves according to our own rules, based on what we like about the bordered and rigidly defined worlds we encounter. The inbetween is a space that is not normative but at the same time that is not too radical. It can speak everyday language but still manages to find problematics in idealized norms.

Let’s take my “nationality identities” as an example. As a Malawian-born, American-raised individual who was socialised in first a prep school in Mobile, Alabama and then a Ghanaian-American context in Arlington, Texas amongst a heterogeneous and wide range mixture of African-Americans and first generation “American Africans,” how do I learn to define my space? Which of these would constitute the location I feel most myself in all the complicated aspects of who I am?

The reality is that depending on the day of the week, and what is motivating and inspiring me, I can feel like any of them and from time to time, can feel like all of them. I find myself crossing over and living amongst all these spaces. I understand and speak most of their languages, can feel their subtle quirks, and can often times translate “them” to the “other”. All these spaces together are my in-between. It is in living all of them, and in accepting all of them as part of my colorful canvas of an identity, that I find the most solace, that I feel the most at peace.

I share this to say, for some of us, the only “home”, whether it be spiritual, physical or mental, we will ever know is in the in-between. Recognising that it is in the in-between that we feel most comfortable, doesn’t mean that we don’t really have a home. All it means is that our home is defined by the many footprints that we have left in the many spaces, in the locations that we have been and explored. It is in the in-between that we thrive, it is from the in-between that we build connections to the world around us.

Because the in-between is where we most feel at home, there is an opportunity for us there to use the language that we know; a language that has life as a result of the many categories that encompass who we are. There is power in being able to float and transcend in many spaces, which enables us to translate what we hear and what we see in ways that can touch many different types of people; in ways that can fundamentally and intrinsically transform the world.

We live and thrive in the in-between and we build bridges. That is just who we are. And because of that, we have the great privilege to be able to look at the world from a peculiar perspective and are able to speak many languages, and are able to belong without really belonging. These to me are rich experiences that we must allow to influence our work as we share stories, and as we continue to work towards creating a world that is a lot more tolerant of difference; a world that accepts and celebrates the in between.

*This article was originally published by Ain’t I a Woman Collective.