I have to smile whenever I am asked the very common question about my identity. “Where are you from?” This question amuses me beyond words. I am always tempted to say something like; I come from an infinite space not visible in the third dimension. But I want to have friends, so I don’t say that.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell people where we are from in adjectives instead of nouns. Just for fun I would say I come from beautiful, I used to live in disgusting and evil but then I moved to abundant, I didn’t stay there long. I got a job in average and then travelled through happy and now I have settled here in exciting. I’m planning to retire in relaxed.
What if we told our stories of where we are from in emotions. I come from bliss, I lived in fear, I worked in misery, I travelled through anger, frustration, loneliness, grief, happiness, joy and excitement. Now I have settled down in content. My husband and I have bought a little villa in hope where we plan to retire.
Or food! I was born in pasta, I moved to cheesecake when I was 5, then travelled through goulash, fried rice, noodles and salad for about 5 years and now I live in sushi. I work in watermelon. I’d love to retire in mango.
Oh the fun I could have, stories of our identity without a mention of country, city, suburb, school, community. All of which tell a story of their own.
Why should I tell you where I am from? Why should I help you form a profile of my existence. If I tell you where I am from, where I used to be and what I have done then I open myself up to your preconceived ideas about me. In an instant we would have lost the possibility of connecting in the ever so important space of now. We would have missed an important opportunity to learn more about each other by discovering where we hope to go and what we hope to achieve regardless of where we have already been.
In this world and in this life I am lucky. I come from many places and I can choose my identity according to who asks me. I am like a chameleon able to camouflage myself into many settings, well maybe not as a ballet dancer on a stage with other ballet dancers, but in general I am adaptable. This is an absolute luxury in a world full of judgement. It also helps that I am white, english speaking, middle-class and educated. In addition to that, I have good teeth, which gives a positive impression about my background. I can easily navigate through western world cultures without having to work too hard to prove my worth.
However, from a 3-D physical world perspective, my family comes from one of the poorest countries in Europe and I grew up in the northern working class suburbs of Melbourne. I wouldn’t even have to tell you that, as soon as I utter the name of the country and the name of the suburb you would have made the connection. If I presented myself first as a country or as a suburb before I showed you myself, then you would have placed me in a box before you even got to know me. It is not that I am ashamed of where I am from, in fact, it is the opposite. My goal is to challenge your ideas about where I am from, so that you may one day speak in defence of my home and my people. “Hey, I once met a woman from ****** and she was nice, she was smart, she didn’t steal my car 🙂 ”
I want people to get to know me first so that their experience of where I am from is based on the exchange of energy with me instead of preconceived, old and out-dated views of the place I am from. In that experience, we have the ability to ignite a new reality into existence instead of repeating old patterns, old judgement, old fears, old hatred and old divisions. I want this now more than ever before, not even for me but for the generations of children who will be the adults of the future, so that they can all say;
I come from the same place as you do, mate!
Dear Adult JTLYK about Identity,
I am not a country. I am not a place. I am not a colour. I am not a religion. I am not a flag. I am not a shape. I am not a condition. I am not a feeling. I am not an action. I am not the past. I am not the future. I am not a version of you.
I am me and if you get to know me you will see who I am.
When you know who I am, then you can help me become the best version of me.
I come from an infinite place of pure potential. However, when you build a profile of me based on the physical place from where I come, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to me. You are creating a compromised version of me built from limiting ideas of who you really think I am.
Once, I got angry at school. I was angry because something happened that was unfair. My teacher saw my anger as something ‘in my blood’ because of where my family comes from. My friend also got angry but his family did not come from an angry country.
I could have learned to deal with my angry feeling that day, instead my teacher showed me that anger is who I am because of where I am from. My teacher’s judgement did not help me, it did the opposite. It formed a reason, a narrative, a profile and most dangerously, an excuse for my anger as though it is something that is in-built and I have no control over. I didn’t even know that my family came from an angry country and that anger was in my blood. Which leads me to the question. Are the adults building profiles of children in order to help us or are they simply making excuses in their own defence when we don’t respond the way they had planned?
If my identity is formed through belief systems about me, how will I ever form my own?
I want to show the world that I am a version of me that I have created myself with the loving guidance of the adults in my world who chose not to judge me.
And, just for the record;
If I were a country, I would be a progressive one.
If I were a place, I would be a peaceful one.
If I were a colour, I would be a vibrant one.
If I were a religion, I would be one that is free.
If I were a flag, I would be a colouful one.
If I were a shape, I would be an interesting one.
If I were a condition, I would be a fair and equal one.
If I were a feeling, I would be LOVE.
If I were an action, I would be a helpful one.
If I were the past, I would be content,
If I were the future, I would be hopeful.
I can choose progressive, peaceful, vibrant, free, colourful, interesting, fair, equal, LOVE, helpful, content and hopeful regardless of where I come from.
Can you please choose that for me too.