Dear Public Journal,
The rows of listerine and foot creams seem utterly foreign to me. What language do the potato chips speak? I’ve been working on two other posts in conjunction with my Artist series and dissertation research, yet I found a need to write this instead, so here begins my public journal, entry one.
I rather recently returned ‘home’ from England, to get a job, finish my MA from abroad, and resettle myself in the States. Unfortunately, I’ve found a somewhat unsettling and entirely unexpected truth in returning: it’s no longer home. The people, the stores, the traffic lanes, and the flags all look the same as I left them, yet they are no longer mine.
I felt rather foreign when I first moved to England, felt out of place and unrelated, yet I expected it, knew I was different. Now, however, I had anticipated a return, a familiarity to welcome me — at least a little — though it did not. For being gone a measly ten months, I had become a foreigner to my own home. I suppose it’s somewhat similar to how a time traveler or perhaps someone defrosted after many years might feel. (Sorry capt., I feel your pain.) Though at least they have extensive time to justify themselves; I’ve got ten months, and to be honest, for the exchange of ten months, I feel like a refugee.
As someone who grew up in the same house, in the same city, on the same road all their life, my identity has been uprooted and entirely reassembled. I left a country, or rather a culture, that was never mine, to return to a culture no longer mine. I’ve unwittingly set up a flag of one. The English me is confused by the American me, and so the two have made a foreigner in their altercation. I had gotten so used to the English introversion, I feel like I have to hide from the extroversion of all my fellow Americans. It feels like everyone is staring at me, judging me, witnessing my ‘foreign’ self. My innards twist when I’m given ten plastic bags for purchasing eight items, my head aches when the sun goes down at only eight, and I keep wanting to be on the other side of the road. I go into grocery stores and feel anxious because of how many things are in it (and most massively sized), how many brands of toothpaste there are on the shelves, and no matter how hard I try I cannot remember where anything is, where the Americans keep their brown sauce. I mean, what on earth is a restroom?
Now, I know, give it a few weeks and all those odd little English quirks will seem a distant memory, another culture in the corner of my ever changing identity. Just like England became familiar after a while, so will America again. Perhaps. Perhaps it will all be a normal routine after a month or so (I can feel it happening already), but perhaps not. At least not entirely. Perhaps this cultural shock will leave a hollow place, a homeless identity, and it will be me. In exchanging cultures, I’ll shed myself of any definitive one. Perhaps I am left to be unsettled as the bird adrift an open sea, remaining on these earthless waves. Perhaps my identity will be estranged forever. I know it could never be genuinely, wholly so, as I’ve still a place of sorts where some do not at all. Yet, it could still be a little, just a bit. It could very well happen, for our identities are not simply affixed to land. To be honest, I’d be okay with this reality; I feel like a single rooted identity is too narrow anyway, leaves too much room for misunderstandings and unintentional prejudices to sprout up. And regardless, I’ve always felt a little out of place (as I wrote in an Avon Epistle), so now it’s a complete whole. My identity is separated into a displaced corner. Personally, I see such a case as an opportunity to fill its void with greater Christly love, with kindness and acceptance, with a broken heart always aware of the fear around me, the unsettled eyes and wandering souls. A joyful spirit may fill the empty and mixed up places I’ve been hewed hollow with. I can see the misplaced puzzle pieces because I am one, and so I can accompany them in their wilderness, dance along to their music. In the vacancy I may join the lonely company of odd wild beasts. My foreign self may wander with the wanderers forever. Perhaps this may be. Perhaps.
The artist I’ve highlighted here is Leandro Soto, the most modern artist I’ve ever highlighted, yet also an old refugee from Cuba, and someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He is a lovely man who very much understands the oddity of a traveling identity and the pain of being an artist. Please do have a peek through his portfolio, and take any chance you may have to join one of his performances, if you happen to be about where he’s at. The first painting is from his Diaspora series and the second is from his Kachireme series, please feel free to read about them both on his site.