Thursday, June 14, 2012

Questions of Identity

We are packing boxes.

It's odd, though, to be packing. We have three categories other than sell and trash. One pile is to take overseas with us when we leave next year (hopefully). One is to keep out in the furnished apartment. One is long-term storage, sentimental things that we can't get rid of but can also live without seeing for potentially five years.
It's very cleansing to get rid of so much stuff. There's no keeping around things because "We might use it if __________ happens."
I just packed my high school scrapbook in the "store for fives years" box. I did it without giving it a second thought and then after I taped it up I sat down to write because I feel a little emotional over it.

I don't scrapbook as a habit, I'm just not creative enough. I just put photos and notes on paper to memorialize, to put in solid form the memories that are no longer the present but I don't want forgotten.

Pages from my college scrapbook, new and not worn out.

When I finished high school and said my very emotional goodbyes, I saw a counselor at the reentry seminar that I went to. She suggested that I scrapbook a page for each good friend as a way of valuing and saying goodbye to each individual. Those two books are thumbed through and worn from my grieving years. They are filled with notes and photos and memorabilia that those people have probably long forgotten.

It's striking that I'm willing to pack them up for five years.  This time in Dallas has truly been a change in my own heart towards my childhood. I've stepped away from clinging so tightly, able to be in a life that is separate from that world. I suppose I am at peace that it is my childhood so it is mine, but it doesn't have to pull from my reality today. Truly it was a hard balance for me to grasp because I do so (still) love the place and people and that beautiful time of life.

One part of it is that I'm going back. I'm going back and it will be different. I don't want to carry a weight of expectation that it be the same as my childhood home, my high school experience of community there. This will be me as an adult with my family, and they (and me to some extent) will be going through culture shock rather than coming "home". I will not be going to people I know (though some will be a short plane flight away!), we only vaguely know two people in the city we're moving to. Instead of the constant activity of intense community I knew in Sentani, we will be building a new life from the ground up.

The week after I wrote this post I woke up in the middle of a dream that made me laugh with how cliche it was. I was back at my high school overseas, watching graduates 8 years older than me (that I barely knew) return to join the current students on a school trip. Everyone was excited, but as the alumni tried to recall the old traditions and inside jokes about this trip, the current students were silent and nonplussed because it's all changed and none of it meant anything to them. I could see the alumni growing frustrated and feeling alienated. It was quite clearly symbolic of my own psyche wrestling with what it will be like to return to a place that was once home but is now different.

 I'm completely able to blend into the American culture with my heels and makeup and music. People who meet me now never know I'm not from here until I till them. But then moments come like one this week at work, when a co-worker noted that I'd just referred to "Americans" in the third-person when commenting on how people around the world use pork. When it comes to small daily things, my differences still end up coming out more and more the longer I know people. Most of the time I like this, until it makes me feel like a friend suddenly views me as "other".

This moving back will make me wrestle with my identity all over again. Will I connect even more closely with Indonesia? Or will I more clearly see my differences and be more willing to accept I am inextricably American in many ways?

1 comment:

Jaimie said...

Awesome. I look forward to finding out.