I’m writing this whilst I am 35,000 feet up in the air. I am a nervous flyer so anything to keep my mind occupied is good. Especially when you are flying from one side to the other side of the world. I got on from London. Destination, Sydney Australia. Like I said, very long flight, with plenty of time to go over all the disaster scenarios over and over in your head.
This blog is however not about my nail biting flying habits. I’ll be sure to tell you about that soon. This is a very personal reflection about who I am and in essence my identity. I would like to take you along with me to my journey home.
When I get asked who I am, I never know what to say. I was born in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. At the tender age of 6 I moved to Sydney Australia. Then I moved back to Sri Lanka at the age of 8, then back again to Australia at the very impressionable age of 12. I went through junior and senior high in Sydney, then onto college, and then the rest of my adult life. I now happen to live in the UK (3.5 years and counting), with my other half.
So, what do I say to a Brit when they ask me who I am? Short answer is, I don’t know. I could just recite the above paragraph to them, and have them move away from me slowly out of boredom! Or I could say ‘Australian’, and have them stare at my skin tone in a very confused manner. Or I could say Sri Lankan, and have them ask me about my accent with a ‘twang’.
I belong to a special kind of confused generation. We were uprooted from familiarity at a very young age and dropped knee deep into a completely new culture. Given the tender age, the vulnerability and the need to fit in, we quickly and reluctantly conformed to the new culture. We forced ourselves to forget what we left behind. It was difficult at times to fit in, I would be lying if I said it was easy. But we were young, and we adapted quickly, and called this alien place home.
Despite all this, I never felt comfortable. I felt different, and not at home. We would go back to Sri Lanka for family vacations very often. I would look forward to those with great anticipation. As I would touch down I would feel an overwhelming sense of belonging. Everything I was trying so hard forget about this place would come rushing back, and I would feel at home.
This feeling continued for a while.
Then, came the next phase of confusion. The family holidays were not the same anymore. The longing I had to go back was not so strong anymore. Once there, it felt unfamiliar. I felt like an alien in the place I once called home. Now, there were more things I could relate to back in Australia rather than in Sri Lanka. My friends, my regular hang outs, my favourite food, they were now in Sydney. Suddenly I was lost. Who am I? Why do I not feel at home where I was born? I didn’t feel completely at home in either place any more.
I was now in limbo. My heart had no home.
It was at this stage I decided to do a stint in London. I’ve always wanted to live in London. To me, it was the best place to see Europe. There was history, a mix of so many different cultures, great food, fashion, the Royals (I am a fan), lakes, rolling hills, Harry Potter, the list goes on…
After spending a few years in London I went to Sri Lanka for a holiday in need of some sun and relaxation. It felt like exactly just that. A holiday. The place was even more alien to me than ever, and I felt like a tourist. I have a very large family there, so they made sure we were very spoilt and had a fantastic time. But I never felt like I belonged. But this was not a new feeling, so I was not too bothered. Just a little surprised at how much I had changed.
Life went on in London. I carried on confused, not knowing what to say to people who asked me where I was from. We didn’t go back to Australia for a while because we were too busy exploring this side of the world. Then, after 3 long years we got on a plane to Sydney. The build up to this trip was a totally new experience. I was thrilled. I was excited see my family, to dig into some Tim Tams, have a 7-Eleven meat pie, whack on some shorts and thongs (that’s flip flops in Oz before you let your mind go wondering!) and go for a long beach stroll, watch the summer storms, see my beloved friends, the list goes on… I surprised my self at how much I had missed all this. The simple things. You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone. So when I got on that plane I was ecstatic to go back.
However, nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience. As we began the descent into Sydney, the sun was rising in the far horizon. I could see the ocean, lots of bushland, long winding roads that go everywhere and nowhere. It was so beautiful. The sun’s glistening rays over this vast dry land. A land like no other. A land I was proud of.
And there it was. It hit me like a ton of bricks. A sudden wave of emotion came over me, and I didn’t know where it came from. I recognised it from years back, but I hadn’t had it for a long time. Wow! I was in tears!
I was coming ‘home’. Where I want to grow old. Where I love. Where I belong.
After years of searching for belonging, I had found it. Up in the air, above the clouds, I had discovered my identity. I found my home. It was a pivitol moment in my self discovery. For years, I felt alien, no matter where I was. Now, I have no such confusion, I know exactly who I am, and I am ready to shout it out loud from the roof tops.
So, where am I from? I am from a prisoner island hidden in the summer for a million years.
Who am I? I am Australian. I will never forget where I was born, and neither will my children. But I am and will always be Australian…
I guess everyone goes through their own ‘identity crisis’, whether it be where they come from, where they belong or what makes them…well, them. Understanding your roots really helps you to understand a lot about yourself and to come to terms with what defines your identity. So, what makes you…you?