I moved into a brand new apartment. It is everything I could have hoped for; big windows, beautiful kitchen, and lots of space. In many ways, my childhood dream of having a home that felt like my own became a reality.
Tyler came to town to help me move and put together the remainder of the furniture items I’d need in a home. He and I couldn’t be more different, from our religious backgrounds, our family upbringing, motivations in life to our relationships with our families and selves. His world is one I always dreamed of having; unconditional love, support from parents, and a strong network of friends and extended family members. They all respect and support each other, even in the most difficult of times. There was so much integrity and honesty in the way that all his family are, they didn’t pretend to be anything they weren’t. Everything was on the table and they had openness with their kids in ways that I had never experienced.
I on the other hand come from a completely different world, one I just didn’t fit in to and one I resisted. I had the love and support of parents when I was obedient and following a clearly outlined path that I could not stray from. My future was decided for me and I was to play my role within the borders of my social role. My religion and cultural identity defined every aspect of my life and I resented it. Our societies originate from a world of tribal competition and a history of war and poverty, those very real experiences directly played a role in my life. But I always feel extremely blessed and humbled by the life I’ve lived and the family I belong to. It’s brought a richness that I can only describe as compassionate empathy and a deep appreciation that social connectedness is profoundly complicated.
There’s a strange paradox to my life in that people may not realize I come from an extremely complicated background and have had experiences that are beyond their realm of understanding but any attempt I make to elaborate on my background is often met with dismay and a confirmation of stereotypical beliefs about immigrants. Conversations about ethnic minorities is often followed with heated political debates. A brief look into the histories of all societies will tell you that humans have had the propensity to cause great damage and have had a disregard for the human toll all around the world for thousands of years all for silly things like land and money. If someone is looking to fight a battle, they aren’t willing to listen to the other side of the line because if they did, they’d realize they were on the same side but just speaking different languages.
Although my world is complicated, it is only like that because the worldview is at odds with the dominant rhetoric. There is little elasticity when two cultures operate under fundamentally different terms. It boils down to the fact that collectivist societies thrive on social obligation and connection, whereas individualistic societies consider social obligation as a hindrance to individual freedom. Collectivist societies are tribal, the rules are in place to ensure that everyone fulfills their preassigned duties, social harmony is maintained through group decision-making and those who stray are often ostracized from the group to avoid chaos and instability. Individualistic societies however, only function under the assumption that every person is for themselves; you fight your own battles and win your own trophies. Take these two worldviews and you can’t really mesh them well if both sides believe they are the only path to success in life. However, children of immigrant parents have successfully been able to build their own versions of these worldviews by taking the best of both and creating a hybrid worldview that is focused on a self of belonging but with the tenacity and drive as a free agent. I’ve struggled with that balance and often teeter-totter from one side to the other battling with which way is better before collapsing to one side exclusively.
My only hope is that with time, I can blend these two world in a way that is whole and single. Right now, it’s fragmented and distorted and there’s a lot of misunderstanding on both sides. If I wasn’t emotionally vetted on both sides, I would be able to open the doors to the world I ran from but the thought of it turns my stomach into knots and I feel myself freezing. It’s hard to be objective in a situation when you are what is debated. The middle ground is hard to reach when you aren’t willing to sacrifice what you’ve built on your own without the help of any other person. I can’t part with any of it, not the good or the bad but as a result, I am not willing to compromise without acknowledgement that I’ve had it harder than most other people. I need a little bit before I give in, I need to be welcomed before I go and even if I never belong, it’ll be that way because I chose to belong to myself and nothing else.