I have always had trouble answering who I am. Never quite sure, a grey mass seemingly full of possibilities. But not knowing who I am is not good enough anymore. As part of the work I’ve been doing with a therapist, I was asked to write about who I am.
I’m a migrant. One of the few facts that is never going to leave me, no matter what. I left my birth country. And, perhaps, I might leave this one too. It doesn’t bother me much, by itself. After all, there is nothing wrong with having traveled and found someplace else to call a home. But it represents so many things I had to let go of, or simply accept I will never have. So I avoid talking about it. I avoid talking about my origins unless it’s relevant and only for as long as necessary. Not that I can hide it, but I do attempt to minimize it.
But I think it is important for me to talk about it as a way to help define who I am. See, I have a childhood friend in another country, and I’ve lost contact with everybody else I went to school with. I can’t go back to my childhood home. I can’t even go back to the area, just to see how it has changed. I can’t go back to the family we left behind – I’ve accepted I will never see them again, not just to the inevitable passage of time, but to the distinct, deliberate decision to migrate. I can’t blame it on the sands of time. Instead, I can point to decisions in time that were made: to save up to leave, the trip my dad did to see how things were, moving to our grandparents so we could sell the apartment, when the plane tickets were bought, when I said goodbye, when I didn’t start the school year because I would be leaving, when we boarded the plane, when we landed.
A gradual process, so it didn’t hurt much. At that moment we gave up a large part of what rooted us. We let go in hopes of finding something better, because there had to be something better.
Because of that, I don’t have a shared cultural foundation over which to bond with people. The shows I watched growing up aren’t the same. Songs I never heard. Some of the basics, sure, I learned. Basic history, for example, and the importance of some things. I also finished my core education in this new home… Despite that, or perhaps because of, every time somebody references one of those cultural elements I just wasn’t exposed to, I am reminded that I am not from here. That I am an other.
There are a few other ways in which I know I may never truly, completely fit in. While I could get rid of my accent if I worked at it with a specialist (and, I’m sure, it would still not be perfect), even just my name is enough to give away that my family has some migrant roots. I am lucky as the relationship between the two countries is strong, and it is common for older generations to have migrated to and back.
But I can’t deny that sometimes I feel I’m missing out, that it’s just slightly harder because I just don’t come from the same general background. I don’t think I will ever quite have a place to call home – not in the same way others do. But I know it is what I make of it, and I am okay with the freedom that affords me.