Who Am I? by Natalia Sarro
When I ask expatriates how they are adapting to their new life in Argentina, I often hear a subtle message hidden behind their words. When they complain, I can tell that it’s not about the bureaucracy of local government. And it´s not the dirty streets of Buenos Aires or the over-emotional demeanor of Argentines that creates all that frustration. There is actually a powerful, unsaid feeling that creates all the fear, anger and uncertainty. Can you guess what it is?
Bingo. It’s about identity. It’s those invisible roots, that make you know exactly who you are, where you are and where you’re going next along a path of time and space.
When you move to a new country, far from loved ones, transitioning from the known to the unknown, the journey is longer than you think. It’s more than a couple of thousands kilometers that you are leaving behind. Rather, you are creating an endless distance between you and your sense of belonging. You feel homeless. Detached. In between worlds. Did you ever hear that popular saying in Spanish “No soy de aquí ni soy de allá”? (“I don´t belong here nor there”)… Well, I guess that says it all.
You may be asking, “is there a way out of this feeling?” I would say yes. The common belief behind this sense of rootlessness is thinking of identity as a fixed, rigid structure that we were given when we were children: your hobbies, your possessions, your family traditions and habits, your neighborhood, etc. From this perspective, we get only one precious identity in life, so we can’t afford to lose it.
Now… What if you could think of identity and home as concepts under construction? What if your identity was something you create and re-create every single day of your life, and it is up to you to decide how it’s going to be? If it was up to you to choose the pieces of your identity every morning, treating it as a work of art that lasts a lifetime, then there would be no need to miss home anymore.
Because home is simply where you are.
When you start to believe your identity is in continuous evolution and it transforms as you grow and make decisions, then the big monster of rootlessness doesn´t make sense anymore.
Rather than a physical place, I invite you to perceive home as something you do (by yourself and with others), and therefore it can change because you are doing new things all the time.
You are not the same person you used to be yesterday, but you forget.
You can change jobs, but you think it is impossible.
You can move to a new country, learn a new language, wake up in a different place every day, but it is too scary for a well-established adult like you.
You can give up old activities that you don´t enjoy anymore. You can start a new career or live in a different way, but your family and friends say you are crazy, so you better stick to your routine.
What new possibilities would you give to yourself if you dared to think of home as an action, rather than a noun? What if your life in a new country was the perfect excuse to take on that forgotten hobby of your childhood? Then, maybe the dusty dream of becoming a writer, an artist or a musician could become reality. Maybe, then the freedom to reinvent yourself during your experience abroad would be present in every step of the journey.
So… what underlying beliefs and old stories are preventing you from having the type of experience abroad you would like to have? What fixed identity is making it impossible to experience the new YOU that you want to become?
If George Eliot was right, then you could start to believe that
“It is never too late to become what you might have been.”
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