I’m a big identity girl. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you have most definitely picked up on this theme in my writing.
Finding myself, becoming me, the journey of life, all of that jazz. It’s all been a recurring theme in my life since I got a Barbie camcorder at five years old and tried to create my own vlog with it before I even knew what YouTube was. (To make it even better, I had a notoriously horrible YouTube channel in high school, presumably a fulfillment of that childhood Barbie camcorder.)
When I moved to a small town in France, I relished in the fact that I was the foreigner in town. I was different. Until one day at work when my coworker casually said, “People act like you being American is the only personality trait you have.”
I smirked. At first I was smugly content. Duh, I am the American in town.
But then I sighed.
That moment is when I realized I had fallen prey to my own game.
I’m not just the American in town. I’m not just American! I have other personality traits! You people don’t even know anything about me. I can’t believe that I’ve been stripped of all my interesting qualities, only to be know as the American! Now that I think about it, people don’t even really like Americans here… Was that an insult?
My mind was racing and confused.
So…What is the “me?”
Ugh. That simple question that has plagued philosopher’s minds since the beginning of time. I doubt my coworker knew her one statement would plunge me into an existential crisis. Then again, she clearly knew nothing about me other than that I was American. She didn’t know I was prone to these sorts of things or that I had a blog or that I would quote her in this very blog post.
While we’re here, I’d like to point out that sometimes I hardly feel American. I don’t necessarily feel French, per se, but I don’t feel 100% American anymore. I mean, I haven’t lived there for a couple years now. I try not to adopt too much of the French identity, being that I am indeed not French. But at the same time, is it possible that the French me integrates with the American me? In what ways?
I think part of this inner debate is also language barrier related. Obviously I don’t express myself the same way in French as in English, and therefore different facets of myself get revealed to different people. Which also brings up an interesting point: Am I being my truest self, despite the language I speak? Maybe learning another language was fatal to my mental health (That is a joke, before anyone feels the need to check in on me. If anything, it made me a better person. Recent neurolinguistic studies actually reveal that “regardless of when you acquire additional languages, being multilingual gives your brain some remarkable advantages…such as higher density of the grey matter that contains most of your brain’s neurons and synapses, and more activity in certain regions when engaging a second language.”).
Anyway, I think it’s really funny that I’m a poster child for the Enneagram’s Type Four, that I place so much importance on identity, and yet I so easily boxed myself in with a personality trait so nonsensical. I didn’t choose to be American. None of us get to choose our nationalities and yet we so often attach so much of our identity to them.
So, I have decided that I am no longer the American in town.
I’m Kristen. Whatever that means.