Sometimes, it’s hard to reconcile your life today and the people that surround you with the fact that your past and background and roots are radically different. You go home and everything you see there is unlike anything you see beyond those four walls, and it’s difficult to not feel guilty for not falling perfectly in line with either way of life- the one at home nor the one outside.
So, what do you do about it? The basic question many are facing today, the one that children of immigrants and immigrants themselves must answer, the one that refugees must eventually come to resolve. It’s such a loaded question because in a world that pretends to be okay with nonconformity, not actually having a place to fit into is a very scary thought. I mean, not having a place to be a part of causes feelings of emptiness and confusion, almost as though you’re missing a home.
Personally, I don’t really have an answer to this question. I was born in Italy and moved to America when I was 7, and living in a family that was deeply entrenched in Italian culture while being surrounded by a society that was soaking in their Americanism was a weird way to live. I always felt like I needed to change to fit into both places correctly, and there was just no good way to do that. Over the years, though, I have found myself creating a crafty mix of both cultures, bringing them together in my own unique way (definitely different from my sister who’s in a similar situation). I have found more power and comfort in always carrying bits of both cultures with me at all times, adopting the parts that fit to who I am the most and disregarding the parts I may not understand or resonate with as much. Maybe it doesn’t always work, and there are certainly clashes with the cultures, but it’s what I have found to work the best.
Maybe it’s not really about ignoring those parts we don’t agree with while accepting the ones we do, but for now, that’s all I’ve been able to work with. Maybe as time goes on and I can grow into parts I may not understand, I’ll be able to fully embrace both cultures, but I do truly believe that I will always be a strange mix of equal parts Italian and New Yorker. And perhaps others will understand this- the struggle between the person you are at home and due to your background against the person you are due to the society all around you.
Your background should never be something you should feel the need to hide from others. It should be a part that you love and appreciate about yourself, and one that you embrace as fully as possible. You are not your past or the mistakes of your relatives, but you are made up of that culture and customs, the ones that cause joy and laughter and happiness. Don’t ignore it just because it’ll make you stand out and be different from those around you- do it for the wonder and improvement you’ll see in your own persona once you embrace it.