Sunday, September 21, 2008

Belonging ... - An Identity Blog?!

Let me just begin by saying that I love being where I am from. And I would not trade it for the world! I think the complexity and absolute puzzlement of my personality which I love comes from where I am from, and I will never deny my home country, nor ever forget my roots. My roots are the one true, solid thread that I hold dear and gets me through hardships, every day! I would be literally dead without them!

But even so … this came to be written …

I have tried to write this piece for years, probably for as long as I have lived. And there are no words to describe this experience… Sure, you’ve “heard” me talk about my trips, my friends, my family, my cats, and my peeves in traffic and at WalMart … You know I can write about almost anything out there.

But this one’s tough! This one’s on my tough list. Along with the day when I decided my mom was cooler than dad (what a life change!) and the day I knew I was surely heading for a divorce … It’s a tough one …

But I’ll attempt just the tip of the iceberg here – because I know it’ll take several lifetimes to get to the bottom of it!

It’s about never feeling like I really belong to “Romanians” at all … It is strange to say that the culture you grew up into, the only one you experienced and knew until you were 23 … has never felt like home to you. To admit it is one thing. To explain it – is a whole different matter altogether and entirely …

I am not sure I felt “at home” in any culture. Mom was sad when at 16 I started speaking in my sleep … in English. I was in Romania then, with no sure plan of moving to an English speaking country … but somehow my subconscious decided to speak English instead of Romanian …

I guess that was the first time when I realized, “wait up, world! I don’t feel Romanian”?! Who knows … I was definitely escaping something. Or my innermost self was, for sure.

Nowadays, removed from my home culture for over 10 years, I do not seek it. I don’t miss it. And when I am exposed to it, I cringe! The cheap and fake familiarity, the macho-ism, the continual “I am better than you”-isms drain me … I have nothing to show off for them. Actually: I would not show off! Not give “them” the satisfaction!

I never speak of what I have made, and what I have accomplished, and that’s all my ‘Romanian friends’ want to know: how much money, what kind of car, how long I have been here and how much I have gained, why the American last name. One compatriot even said once: “Oh, you’re that kind that slept around for a visa”. I didn’t deny it. All I said was: “What?! You’re jealous?!”. This kind of cheap familiarity is just not my taste. This kind of "the guy gets away with murder and the woman is killed or worse: shamed" is so far from mu cup of soup!

I don’t miss the pettiness. I don’t miss the small world victim show: “Oh, Americans have all the McDonald’s but we have all the history” – makes me puke! Yeah, and what did you do with all the history- I wanna ask?! You moved to America! “History” alone will not keep you fed, and clad, and free, and happy, will it, now?!

They snarl at the American culture. They bite the hand that’s feeding them, and I cannot stop that low.

I don’t miss the fake melancholy: “Oh, when we were back home, the sausages tasted like real meat, and the wine was sweet, not like these prefab ones. Yuck”. Oh, yeah, I want to say: so, move the hell back!

It’s like you’re shipwrecked on this deserted island and the people on that ship speak the same language as you, and you know them all – so there is a certain familiarity there - but at the same time you can’t trust them: because they want your peril, so they can survive! So, the sameness instead of bonding becomes a weapon you can use against them, to survive. And it all becomes … painful, petty, painful … and just troublesome in night, when you’re alone with your thoughts.

I don’t miss the fake patriotism, either: they bring tricolored balloons (red-yellow-blue) to Romanian gatherings, or flowers, or even the flag. I can’t relate to it. That is a country that has hurt me (and all of us) so! A country whose lack of political wisdom, corruption, breaking all the laws and violating all human rights forced all of us to move far, far away and live with no family, and no real bonds. Amongst strangers. Why crave it? Why wish for it? Why cherish it here?!? Why re-live it?! Just to be martyrs? Or victims? That’s so lame. Shallow. Lame and boring.

I bring with me the Romanian things my family gave me; the personal things I want not to share with anyone but my family: the foods, the Saints’ feasts, the customs, the personal touches in the home; the china and art on the walls; the hand painted eggs, and ceramics; the language.

But I cannot get together and wishfully lust for a land and a culture that has raped me of everything sacred that I had, from my home, my family, myself, as I knew me at 23. A culture that has forced me to pack one suitcase full of clothes and run! And never look behind! A culture that still tortures and demeans my family. My flash and blood.

The Romanian culture for me was more like a dura mater rather than an alma mater

It forced me into an American exile even after my love and marriage had long been dead. There was no way back. Only forward. There are volumes to be written about my American experience and immigration in general. But this was not an easy choice.

So, to get together and celebrate our Romanianism has always just felt a bit masochistic and rude. Rude to our parents left behind. Rude to ourselves and our true feelings.

At least to me. If I cannot have my parents here, the fake love of strangers, I seek note.

It’s part of the whole immigration … odyssey, and it’s very, very hard to explain.

I do not regret my choice. Ever. And I see that some of the things that are Romanian encouraged this culture that pushed me (and us) away: the corruption springs from the jealousy of wanting what the neighbor has and bringing it to the rank of law! Lying, jealousy, and melancholy of the past are basis of Romanian “patriotism”!

Like I have said before: I think of myself as not placed in the world yet, but I love the Romanian in me: the caution, and ingenuity, the ability to not waste as much as my American fellows; the understanding for immigrants and oppression; the respect for everyone around me, and the “small country” frame of mind, of knowing that we’re not alone in the world, and we have to be mindful of all . But I am still uneasy to congregate with my fellow people.

It will be even harder, I know, 20 years from now. A woman without a country you can say I am. I still see myself sitting on the sidewalk in Margate, England, and crying that I don’t want to go back to Romania, because I had found my home. That was 1997. And I guess even earlier than that, at 16, in 1991, I have been looking for home, in my sleep talk.

I guess my roots did get planted firmly in Romanian soil. Forever. But my trunk, and branches, and leaves and blooms chose to belong to other realms. To America? Canada? Europe in general? The world?! They still look bend towards the roots, back towards where they started and to what feeds them, and see the starting point … But just like a graceful willow, they bend towards it, but they’ll never touch it again.

Final note: if this is totally confusing – it’s OK!

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