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postcard from home

I've always felt hyphenated, caught between two worlds, and sometimes more than two.  I've stolen the term Growing up Hyphenated from a professor of mine in college, Peter Fulton who was interested in the second generation experience of youth in America.  Ever since I heard the term however, I connected with what it meant for me.  I would say that I don't have one hyphen and its always been difficult for me to define exactly what that hyphen is.  Greek-Dutch-American. European American. Just American? (since to be an American means to be a melting pot, but then so does being European if you go back far enough). 

When people ask me where I'm from, I have a hard time answering.  My good friend Rita who I met while in Portugal always introduces me as her cocktail friend and it always makes me laugh.    Yes, I grew up in America, yes I am an American.  In my house however there were at one point or another the following languages being spoken: Greek, Dutch, Spanish and English.  In my house, it felt like Little Greece or Little Amsterdam, things were totally different than what I saw on TV.  It's hard to explain how, but it doesn't only include minute details like  the music and television programs we listened to and watched or the food we ate.  It was even just the way my parents and I interacted and the things we spoke about (or didn't speak about).  I visited Holland and Greece often, yet my cousins and aunts largely felt like strangers to me. 

I felt early on that I was caught in between multiple worlds but didn't really belong to any of them.  I still feel this way to this day, but I guess the difference is that now I am starting to appreciate the richness of my experiences living in this hyphenated world.  Well all this hyphenation I grew up feeling and experiencing, it didn't really fit with the majority of my classmates experiences.  But, fortunately, I went to a public middle school in the Washington DC suburbs, which was definitely more diverse than let's say a middle school in Des Moines, North Dakota and I could find other people who were like me, that I could relate to.  My friends in middle school were other second-generation Americans, which at Cabin John meant I was hanging out with Chinese, Indians and South Koreans. Many of us were technically even first-generation but had moved away from our home countries at an early enough age where the distinction between first and second isn't really that important to make.   In high school, my closest friends were a Persian-American and a girl who had lived in I think 5 different countries before returning to the US.  Of course, its only natural that I connected with others who were like me and had the same issues with their immigrant parents as I did. 

Butnow, as I enter my 27th year of life in a few months, I feel in many ways even more confused by my identity and in many ways, even more alienated.  I just came back to the DC area after spending the last fifteen months living Lisbon, Portugal. 8 days ago to be exact.  Back being, back home to my parents house in the DC suburbs.  I'm back to figure out what's next after just completing my masters degree and also to get myself back in shape both physically and mentally.  I have to feel good first before I'm going to get out there and do good things!

However, this time back home has also been the impetus for me to create a space where I can finally get these internal conversations I've been having with myself down in written form.  I'm titling this blog Across the Pond because that's exactly what these conversations are about.  I am constantly fluctuating mentally, spiritually and physically between America and Europe. Where in Europe is a separate conversation all together.  And although I don't think I will ever feel 100% at home living 100% either in Europe or in the US, I do hope to be able to find a balance for myself some day..

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    Reflections on living a double life, one foot in America, and one foot in Europe.


    March 2010



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