Lately I have been thinking about my identity. Actually that’s a lie I have been thinking about my identity for- well ever since I can remember, just like I assume most people do. Lately, however, it is a big deal for me again and not just because of my life-changing journey to this foreign, snowy land but also because I am more proud of my multi-country-language-culture-identity than I have ever been.
The to-ing and fro-ing from home to home is not just my unique story. It never has been. It is the story of so many people, like for example all the refugees risking life and limb to get to a better future. Trying to do what my parents and grandparents did back before immigration law and regulation was even a thing. It is a story that is becoming more and more familiar. I mean who really comes from one place any more? OK so maybe there are lots of people all over the world that do – but I would be willing to bet money that it is a considerably smaller number than say 50 or even 20 years ago. The world is mobile. And identity, national identity and culture are all mobile too – fluid. You can be from more than one country at the same time. So many people are.
Growing up in England I was a dark curly-haired foreign looking thing, not blonde or petite like my counter parts. I was very clearly different and no matter how much I dreamed of being straight haired and blonde, I was never going to be. Living in Cyprus as a teenager I was not really Cypriot. I spoke Greek with an English accent. I was English-Cypriot, a “Charlie” – nick-named after Prince Charles. (I mean they could have at least gone for Diana right?) As a student in the USA I used to dread the question “Where are you from?” The answer was never short and simple. Most people I met did not know where Cyprus was, and I spoke with a British accent so that was confusing and I looked like I could be Latina or mixed race so basically most people regretted asking me the question in the first place. Now, here I am in Norway. Speaking Norwegian, learning to ski, climbing mountain peaks for fun and eating way too many hot dogs too often.
So, basically, I spent my teens wanting to be someone I wasn’t, my twenties trying to explain who I was and now, finally, in my thirties, I am at the point where I am using my multi-cultural-ness to my advantage. I ignore all the rules about personal space and physical contact because, hey, I am Cypriot and I have a license to hug. I don’t straighten my hair because it is curly and it will always be, so what’s the point? I keep saying please and thank you after every other word even though it is not expected, because I am a polite Brit; and I curse in Greek when I am angry (loudly), because nothing else expresses my anger in the same kind of gratifying way.
I am a mix. A mix of all the places I have lived and the cultures I have embraced and there is nothing but glory in that. I am a proud, second generation British citizen, ethnically, culturally and soulfully Cypriot, with a dash of U.S. ballsiness and a “give-a-shit” London attitude, who is now planting roots in Norway.
So to anyone out there that is having the same dream as I did when I was a child – the dream of coming from one country, of having lived in one place your whole life and being able to say I am English or I am Greek or I am one word, come from one country, belong to one group, have one identity. Or if you are rejecting new identities in your life, society or country. All I can say is, get with the multi-ness. It is all the rage and it’s here to stay.
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