I am Slovak-American. Growing up in a multicultural household — where two languages were spoken and two cultures were nurtured – left a lot of questions for me to answer about myself.
Over the years, I have concluded that there will only ever be a feeling of confusion: there will be no answers, no aha moments, no certainties, and no definitives about my identity. I can only float through my life with the two halves of myself in perpetual disagreement with one another.
I hate not knowing which language to speak. I hate not feeling comfortable in my skin, not feeling comfortable around my friends, not feeling comfortable with my family. I hate having to repeat myself. I hate when I stick out. I hate not being able to speak without the condescending stares, the ogling eyes, the what’s your story curiosities although they are asked with love and good intentions. I hate that I’m not patriotic. I hate that I feel like a wanderer. I hate the we’ll see answer I give when asked which country I want to live in. I hate the labels. I hate the assumptions. I hate the politics. I hate that everyone thinks they know everything about a country they have yet to live in, only having visited it in their dreams. I hate this limbo. I hate the familiar strangers in my family. I hate the identity crisis. I hate my accent. I hate my regrets. I hate the questioning: am I doing enough to nurture my other culture, my other language, my other self, my other half?
Most of all, I hate not knowing who I am, and I hate not knowing where I belong.
And yet –
I love my ambiguity. I love the limbo that I call home. I love feeling different from others. I love not knowing where home is. I love existing in between the lines. I love the travelling. I love the freedom. I love the uncertainty of my future. I love being alone. I love the traditions. I love the memories, the photographs from a time long ago and a history that no longer exists, with the secret stories only I know. I love the never-ending learning. I love the confusion between my two languages. I love being able to choose who I will be, undefined, and unscripted. I love the bedtime lullabies.
There is a lot to love and a lot to hate with my two selves, a dichotomy I will always appreciate.
Art by Jennifer-Jane van der Merwe