Do you suffer from the condition Expatria Déjà Vu?
It's a little known condition that affects millions of people each year.
Sadly, as yet, there's no cure.
Patients with Expatria Déjà Vu generally have to manage their own symptoms through rest, silence and keeping up fluids. Unlike other conditions in the Expatria family, the consumption of a small amount of alcohol reduces some symptoms, but you are still advised not to operate machinery.
'Holidays at Home' (50mg tablets) is currently one of two products on the market designed to help people recuperate temporarily. You are advised, however, to use 'Holidays at Home' with caution as this medication is also known to increase the severity of symptoms of Expatria Déjà Vu.
What is included in this information?
1. What 'Holidays at Home' is used for
Holidays at Home contains the active substance, 'repetitious conversation'. Holidays at Home is one of a group of Expatria medicines called, Hell for Expats in Leisure Periods - Mental Exhaustion (HELP-MEs); these medicines are used to treat Repetitive Conversation disorders.
'Holidays at Home' can be used to treat:
Expatria Déjà Vu is a circumstancial condition with symptoms like:
Your family has decided that this medicine is suitable for treating your condition. You should however, consult your doctor (expat friends) if you are unsure why you are taking 'Holidays at Home'.
If you are concerned about whether you have the condition, the image below shows you what Expatria Déjà Vu looks like under the microscope.
2. What you need to know before you take 'Holidays at Home'
DO NOT TAKE 'Holidays at Home':
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR (expat friends) if you are taking the following medicines:
3. How to take 'Holidays at Home'
Always take this medicine exactly as prescribed.
The recommended dose for adults is One Week Staying in a Nearby Hotel with your Own Leisure Activities Every Second Day. If Expatria Déjà Vu symptoms do not ease after 1 week, dosage can be increased to Create a Mailing List to Regularly Update Your People. This will help ease the repetitive questions in time.
4. Possible side effects
Like all medicines, 'Holidays at Home' can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.
When treating Expatria Déjà Vu, the most common side effect of 'Holidays at Home' is Minor Frustration which often dissipates with sleep, a small amount of alcohol and continued treatment.
Talk to yourself and moderate your behaviour immediately if you experience any of the following:
COMMON (may affect 1 in 10 people)
UNCOMMON (may affect 1 in 100 people)
RARE (may affect 1 in 1000 people)
5. How to store 'Holidays at Home'
Do not use this medicine after the expiry date.
Store in ambiant conditions with:
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor (expat friends).
Unfortunately, I’m deadly serious.
That’s not something you want to discover about yourself.
Racists are those people that I Ioathe. The ‘less than’ people I see on the news being arrested for hate crimes. The people I disassociate myself from because….
I have friends with different coloured skin.
You need to know that as I write this, that my whole body is creasing up in discomfort. It’s the pain of realising that I’m no different to the ‘less thans’ and I’m trying to not feel ashamed.
I want to run. Badly.
Every cell in my body is fighting this admission. I hate it.
And now I’m crying. I feel like I’ve hurt my dear friends who have different coloured skin to me and I hate that even more. They don’t even know that I’m racist… but I feel like crap for actually being secretly pleased that I’ve been able to hide.
F*** This. Is. Hard.
For ease of access to the church, we stayed in Harlem.
And then it began. Five days of realising I’m racist.
So how does that happen?
His words were, “with all due respect, please do not compare your sexuality with one’s race. It is two totally different things.” I was affronted at his assumption that I was like ‘the others’.
I got it. Really I did! I didn’t.
I’ll just reframe my point because he’s just misunderstood me. He hadn’t.
De-Dee Loft Davis is a racial equity consultant I follow on Linkedin. She’s great. About 2 months before New York I’d commented on a post of hers (how WOKE of me eh?) to show support that I understood the micro-aggressions Black people experience, because I get them too as a gay person.
It started a conversation between me and another racial equity consultant - a guy who continued to say, For me, most can hide their sexuality. I cannot hide my Blackness. It is what you see. I understand what you are trying to say by, “Sit in my shoes,” but I really don’t like when people try and compare the two. Both identities should be able to stand on their own.
I still didn’t like it. I really wanted him to understand my position. He wasn’t listening. (I know…..) He didn’t understand my gayness. I continued my argument, reframing and adding more points from my angle. This would make him understand (Don’t say it. I know…).
Suddenly I stopped.
I don’t know why, but I remembered something that Catrice M Jackson had said in her book ‘Antagonist, Advocates and Allies: The Wake Up Call Guide for White Women Who Want to Become Allies with Black Women’. See I knew I wasn’t racist; I was reading the right books.
Essentially one of Catrice’s messages is simply to shut up and listen.
LISTEN to Black voices.
LISTEN to their experiences.
LISTEN to what they are telling you.
So I listened and then I apologised to him. I did come to understand his point.
However, I still managed to tell myself that this was a one off experiences of me misunderstanding.
There’s that blindness of privilege again eh?
My naivety hit me hard. I smiled at people. Nobody gave a crap.
In fact it felt the opposite. It felt hostile.
And there were two hostilities, but I realised that they were both inside of me.
The first? I was desperately uncomfortable and trying to not look privileged. I couldn’t hide it. I’m a white woman walking down a street called Malcolm X Boulevard. That’s enough.
And second, (now I’m really trusting you with this), it became apparent to me how different my body felt when I walked past Black men. It hesitated and it felt anxious.
I tried to tell myself that it was because I’m a woman and we’re good at keeping ourselves safe in public, but deep down I knew I wouldn’t have felt it so acutely if they were White men.
I was ashamed and felt awful. I even found myself blaming them for making me feel this way. Nothing like a bit of projection eh? But I did want to understand why my body spoke to me this way.
I’m still wrestling with the why, but what I can offer for now is:
YOU'RE JUDGED FOR BEING WHITE
I was completely ignored as I walked around Harlem. No one smiled at me. No one said anything to me. No one made eye contact of any description. But if you’re White and thinking that’s normal for any city street, watch what happens when you’re next out and about where you live. You receive subtle acknowledgements all the time. A sorry when someone squeezes past you, a quick stare if you’ve got a slogan on your shirt, people stay on the footpath when you walk towards them or they might give you a smile.
I got nothing. Like A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y nothing.
In shops, the cashier talked to me as in, ‘that’ll be $5.99 thanks’, but if I said anything else it was completely ignored.
I felt like I wasn’t welcome. I wasn’t.
And why should I be? Centuries of slavery, discrimination and aggressions towards Black people and I think I can be welcomed as I venture into their safe spaces? Their communities? The reality was starting to hit me.
The reality hit even harder when I walked down the street with my wife dressed in her clericals. Her Bishop’s collar received welcomed smiles, greetings, Hello Padre - yes, padre! :-) In the laundromat where we'd been met with disdain in the morning, we were now offered a staff machine and all the help we needed.
Previously, being White was enough to be judged. I hated what my skin represented. I wanted them to know I was different to ‘other white people’, but it didn’t matter. It was irrelevant. I was now experiencing what it was like to be judged for the colour of my skin.
It’s shit by the way.
Having struggled enormously when my wife became a priest (suffice to say, I didn’t like religion much), the irony of her giving me warm passage through the streets of Harlem was not lost on me.
You see, one less barrier existed. One less potential agitation removed. The collar bridged our differences and mutual fears.
I found myself wanting to leave Harlem, because I felt uncomfortable. I wanted to go back to blending. And then it hit me again. Blending is not an option for Black people. Unless they’re in Harlem. And then there’s this stupid White woman walking down the street…..
That’s gonna piss anyone off.
And you know the really awful thing? When I was in Harlem, I wished I had black skin, so I could blend and then I thought about what that really meant outside of Harlem and I didn’t want it.
Not because I think being Black is in anyway ‘less than’, but because I wanted to be accepted and not judged.
This wasn’t a TV cop show or a social media post that you can distance yourself from.
The reality of their faces said everything.
I was now starting to truly listen. Minute snippets of truth slowly sinking into my tiny brain.
A couple of days later, Atatiana Jefferson was shot in her own home through her bedroom window by a Fort Worth police officer responding to a report that her front door was open. Moments before, she had been playing video games with her nephew, heard a noise and went to the window.
She’s now dead.
Black people are subject to deadly force even when they stay home.
I have never worried for my life when the police come to my home or they've pulled me over in my vehicle. Privilege.
RELIEF AND GUILT
It became time to move to another hotel Downtown. Synod was over.
I was relieved to be leaving the tension of Harlem.
This relief was also distinctly uncomfortable, because I knew that I could simply walk away from the discomfort I’d felt. It was an easy option for me. I could return to privilege without any effort and if I wanted to, forget about my experience ‘north of Central Park’. I could slip back into the melting pot of New York’s diversity and everything would all be okay again.
But it’s not.
What is not okay is not doing anything about it.
A switch has been turned on and I can’t turn it off.
I don’t want to.
The challenge for me personally is to work out what I’m going to do about it.
It starts with this blog.
In reading Catrice Jackson’s book, I had hoped to be classified as an ‘Advocate’ with the aim of moving to ‘Ally’.
However, my well intentioned, but misguided comment on Linkedin puts me in the Antagonist camp. I am not proud of this. But I’m also not afraid of difficult conversations.
So for me, it’s back to Catrice’s book to learn how to move forward into ‘Advocate’ and ‘Ally’. It’s too important not to.
Who’s with me?
It's going to take more than one coffee to work through this one.
They reply: Fantastic Thank you. I can't wait! Me neither, I'm so pleased to be here.
Sound familiar? Expatriate postings are like those extreme sport team-building days. There's tension in the air, but you're not quite sure if the adrenalin is exciting or terrifying.
My good friend Sundae Bean, says that as globally mobile people, we live 'Olympic Level Lives'. Believe me, she knows her stuff. She's an intercultural strategist and solution-oriented coach who also lives this life.
She right. This life kind of takes you apart, then puts you all back together again, many times over. And that's now in 2020 when we are at a all time high for ease of instant communication. What about 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Or even more than 50 years ago?
It's almost unfathomable to me. Imagine setting off in the 1920s unsure of where you'd end up and when - or if - you'd ever see your family again.
So what's it been like through the Years?
There's nothing better than words from the people themselves. For this, I have turned to my trusty resource, 'The Source Book', which I bought from the Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague in 2018. This wonderful centre describes itself as a home for expat life stories.
So with my copy of The Source Book at hand, let me introduce you to our community of life-builders, the heroes, the brave, the determined, the emotionally resilient, the fiesty, the inventive, the survivors, the thrivers, the problem solvers and the inordinately adaptive people we call expats.
As you read on, I invite you to think about the skills developed, the lessons learned and the life review that these remarkable experiences trigger.
Take a moment too to reflect on each 'PAUSE FOR THOUGHT'.
On our arrival at the Lutong wharf we were met by the company men, Chinese coolies[sic], with four wheeled trolleys. Sitting back to back we were pushed through the jungle along a rentus (track) for two miles... our luggage on a following trolley, and so we arrived at the bungalow that was to be our home for six years.
- JG about EM, Malaysia, 1926
[The Source Book, page 035, EAC Ref 0500/479]
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
How would a long journey like this help alleviate arrival culture shock and subsequent transition?
Husband in Prison
My husband was one of the many rounded up and put in Seria Police station. The rebels took possession of all the cars. One night...some of the hostages were taken in a truck to part of the road near Panaga Police station. They were lined across it and used as a shield and were caught in the crossfire between Police and the Rebels. One man was killed and several others were badly injured. Lachie had been a POW for five years during the war and there was no way he was going to be locked up again. He escaped across a bit of jungle.
- EM, Seria, Brunei, 1960s
[The Source Book, page 75, EAC Ref oacl/33/4/1]
As the gun began to drop slightly lower and away from his face, I realised he was looking as frightened and unsure as I felt. Throwing caution to the winds, I asked him in what Province he had been at school... The gun lowered, he relaxed and we leafed together through one of the standard English texts in use in most primary schools. He had wanted to continue his education, but the army provided a surer living....
He finally confessed that what he had come for was to ask me to provide...some space for use as a polling station. Together, we toured the compound and decided that one classroom nearest the entrance would be quite sufficient.... As we parted he almost shoook my hand - but his gun got in the way.
- AR, Nigeria, 1960
[The Source Book, page 119-120, EAC Ref 0401/54]
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
Have you and/or your spouse worked out what are your non-negotiables? What scenarios have to happen for you to leave the country? Natural disasters? Civil unrest? Threat and experience of violence? The currency become vastly inflated?
Tanker Hit by a Missile
I was taken to the Graille Hospital in Saigon and eventually operated on to take the shrapnel, glass shards and burnt wire strands from my many wounds I had to my side, shoulders, head and neck, and then was stitched up well vaccinated with a syringe the size of a stirrup pump.
The French surgeon wore shorts, a flowery shirt and flip-flops on this feet, with a Gauloise cigarette haning from the lips, 'picture the scene'.... and asked Carol to come and watch while he operated, no anaesthetic, of course.... just like out of war movie, only this was for real.
- CM, Vietnam, 1972
[The Source Book, page 98, EAC Ref 0905/763]
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
What has using local medical services made you grateful for?
How do you actively apply that gratitude in your life?
First Week in Bangkok
In our first week I was browsing through an antique shop and asked the owner to recommend a good rug dealer. He stared blankly, so I squatted to show him the floor. "Ah Toilet!" he said delightedly and ushered me to the back of the shop.
- CC, Bangkok, Thailand 1984
[The Source Book, page 41, EAC Ref 0600/166]
Women may not drive, cycle or employ female domestic help. Some feel they are living in 'gilded cages'.... Homesickness can be a real problem especially as extended family members may not visit and living in such a restrictive atmosphere can lead to paranoia and depression in various degrees.
Officially we're not allowed to gather in groups and certainly not mixed (male and female). We are extremely fortunate however, in having a great GM's wife who pointed out that we all have talents which we should use...I have just set up a small mixed choir (no previous experience in conducting!) and we plan to have a house concert very soon: prohibited of course and we have to leave out potentially provocative words.
- PH, Saudi, 1984
[The Source Book, page 57, EAC Ref 0007/732]
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
In what ways can you 'get creative' and use your talents to create great connections and purpose in your life?
When our seafreight arrived in Nigeria, we were informed that the agent had been thrown into prison because customs had found consignment of military uniforms in our possession. What?! In fact my husband had an old pair of camouflage trousers he used to wear when photographing in the Gabonese jungle.... He was summonsed before the General at the military base to apologise. [Shell paid a large sum and the agent was freed]
... A similar thing happened to friends of ours a couple of years later. They were accused of importing 'espionage equipment'. This was in fact a small canoe acquired for their children.
- KM, Nigeria, 1997
[The Source Book, page 70, EAC Ref oac5/1/1/12]
A Guide to Etiquette in Delhi
The plumber - sadly everything leaks but he will persist in his repairs and come immediately. Sadly he fails to understand why we want the luxury of water out of both taps.
- SP, India, 1995
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
The best cultural interactions occur when both parties feel 'met'. How do you deal with challenges within another culture? Do you only see it your way, or are you able to stop and meet them in the middle? If your way is not working, perhaps try another option and open yourself to their cultural approach. What have you got to lose?
Relocating with Special Needs Children
When a family of a child with special needs learns of a possible international relocation, the rug literally is pulled out from under them. Even when research and treatment may be more advanced in the new country, parents need to learn an entirely different system, understahd the cultural context of special needs, and rethink best practice when considerable time, energy, thought and effort already have gone into the project. There may be insurance issues to be explored or mastered.
- LP, London, UK, 2004
[The Source Book, page 103, EAC Ref 0100/4/3/2]
I don't know anyone who sent their children to boarding school because they wanted to.
- AM, Den Haag, 2005
[The Source Book, page 123, EAC Ref oac5/6/2/22]
My husband never drank alcohol until we went to Nigeria.
- KM, The Hague, Netherlands, 2006
[The Source Book, page 101, EAC Ref oac5/6/5/7]
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT:
How we behave off the situations that present themselves to us can dramatically influence our mental and physcial health This includes what we're like to live with and work with too. How can you transform your choices that you choose through gritted teeth into ones taht you welcome openly, warmly and with purpose?
I hope that you can grace me a minute to remind you of the words I used at the beginning to describe expats:
Life-builders, the heroes, the brave, the determined, the emotionally resilient, the fiesty, the inventive, the survivors, the thrivers, the problem solvers and inordinately adaptive.
I don't see how we can see them as anything else. Do you?
They've worn their shoes well.
So well, they might need to retire them, but that's another blog for another day.
"No matter what the situation, remind yourself, I have a choice"
- Deepak Chopra
A bag of oranges here. A packet of dates there. A box of biscuits.
Different food groups, but all the same within their collective packet.
It's the reason that supermarkets, haven't offered (until recently) imperfect fruit and vegetables. We like symmetry and we like to lump together.
We like to lump together when it comes to people too.
We do it with nationalities. We do it with gender. We do it with religion. We do it with..... well, everything.
It's easy isn't?
But have you noticed that we only do it when our words have derogatory intent?
When was the last time you heard someone say,
Oh that's so typical of women to be amazing at juggling family life and work?
Typical men, they're so good at raising their kids.
We lump together and generalise when we want to slag off or have our misguided judgements confirmed.
Oh yeah, but that's not always the case I hear you say.
I wouldn't say that because some guys aren't great at raising their kids.
You're right, They're not, but I challenge you.
Do you afford the same positive variations and distinctions when generalising in a derogatory way? Do you say, Ah, typical men! or do you pause and say, that's so typical of a certain type of man?
Generalising Isolates and Incites Hate
I've seen it. It's not pretty. In fact it's horrid.
Social media is not kind. Faceless 'warriors' influencing and creating fear against certain people. Massive generalisations.
Transphobia. Xenaphobia. Islamaphobia...to name a few.
Inclusion and Being a Friendly Face is Not Hard
It's not till you see someone else's every day, that you realise the reality of why we need to reach out.
On one of my last trips to the USA I was standing in a slow security queue at an airport. People were starting to get irritated at the delay. The security team were being extra thorough on one person. A muslim woman and her 3 year old child.
People smiled as he played behind her, leaping onto anything he could climb, but at the front of the queue you could have cut the air with a knife. The security guys were doing their best to be polite, but there was a massive elephant in the room, stomping down the conveyor belt.
I swear I heard it blow its trumpet, at least twice. Once when they insisted on putting the woman's bags through the scanner for a third time and again when they offered to repack her now completely jumbled bags. She fought back tears as she grabbed her bags; all her belongings falling out. No, I'm okay. I'll pack them myself, she said, clearly desperate to get away from the public spectacle.
It was awful to watch. We all knew why she'd been stopped, but no one said those words.... Muslim woman.
A few minutes later I was in the toilets and realised she was there too.
By now she was crying too. She leant forward to hug me. There we stood in the bathroom, two strangers in tears, hugging each other.
And the incredible thing...?
I spoke to her to give her comfort, but in reality she gave me comfort. That experience of 'other' was new to me. THAT reality check of someone else's life.
How is it that we've got to the point where the victim is the one who reassures the privileged? And because they are so used to being treated as 'the other', it's become their normal.
That frightens me.
I do not want to live in that world.
I'm the first to admit that I get jealous. Not always, but it's there.
I even hear the words, 'Why am I not doing that?'.
In seeing family doing something exciting whilst I'm at my desk or seeing a friend enjoying sun, as my windows rattle violently with the wind and rain, my mind wanders to imagine what else I could be doing.
I feel kind of vulnerable admitting this, as though it's some sort of failure, but I often want to be somewhere I am not. I crave external stimulation and excitement. I want to be on the go, travelling and I thrive when I am.
BUT, over the years I've also learnt 3 Valuable Lessons.
LESSON 1: People don't post the hard truths of their lives.
We project our 'best lives' - a manufactured identity. We post the activities and experiences that leave us in a positive light. Unless we want sympathy, we don't post about our financial woes, fighting with your partner about their parenting or your worries about whether you and your kids can cope emotionally with the next 2 years of your partner's global job.
We know that much of social media is a modified truth. The activities being posted are real, but they are the skimmed down, cut and paste version of life. It's sometimes helpful to remind ourselves to see them for what they are.
LESSON 2: Having a great holiday doesn't exclude people from having had a sh*t year.
You might want the wonderful holiday your friend is enjoying and posting about, but do you also want the difficult year he's endured?
When you don't see someone's day to day struggle, it's easy to not appreciate their reality - and the very real need for a much-earned holiday. We don't see the struggle so it hasn't happened. We don't see the hard work that goes into a tough year. We don't see the tears, the anxiety, the frustrations. We see the celebratory times posted online and it's easy to slip into jealously and wishing we were there too.
See your many blessings.
Cherish that your friend is getting the break he deserves.
LESSON 3: The grass is not always greener
I love the expression, 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. In thinking there's something better than our current situation, this attitude could be mistaken as being a good motivator to improve one's life.
BUT, it can sit within a context of comparing one's life to another's, wanting more without being grateful for what is, and forgetting that wherever you go, you take yourself with you.
It's a disruptive state of mind.
It leads to regrets.
So, next time you feel yourself wanting to chase something greener, consider two of the key things that matter to us most, here at Drawn to a Story:
You are who you are and your sense of belonging begins within.
I like to think that you've had a jolly good apprenticeship at being you (whatever your age).
Now is the time water the grass and become the 'best you'.
I know that you know everything I've already said, but I also know that when I'm tired at the end of the year, I'm not at my best.
I'm guessing that you might not be too.
* There'll be those of you who have not bought a single Christmas present yet. (No judgements here, that's usually me!)
* Some of you are having everyone over for Christmas Day and you're in a mild panic.
* And if you're like me, I know some of you will be looking out the window at the cold weather and missing your hot 'home' country.
So, whatever your circumstance, remember.....
AND SO FOR DECEMEBER 2019
I CHALLENGE YOU:
Have you ever thought, that what's a one day joke for you, may be somebody else's everyday of not belonging?
They may offer a smile in an attempt to be accepted and not offend your joke.
But what's going on inside that person?
Maybe their smile yet again covers the sudden desperate weight in their chest that comes with a 'joke'.
It's just a joke right?
Banter, we all love banter don't we? Yeahhh!
Watch the video and after you've watched it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
I remember as a child thinking I was terribly clever asking whether Brazil nuts were just known as 'nuts' in Brazil.
Or asking what's 'Déjà vu' in French?'
We all did that right? As a kid? Silly games and playing with words as we began to learn about how to use them.
Back to the Brazil nuts though....
Apparently, they are not actually a nut (rather, a seed) and it turns out Bolivia harvests more of them than Brazil. And it's not just Brazil; they grow in other parts of South America too.
But it got me thinking about labels.
What narrative do you tell yourself about who you are?
How do others describe you? Do you like the words people use?
In many ways it could be argued that we need labels to help us to function as a society. On a civil level, it protects our rights and entitlements to services (health, housing, social benefits etc) and also allows us to prove who we are.
But what about the labels that aren't for government purposes? The ones which the newspaper touts as a headline like:
MIGRANTS take ALL new jobs in Britain (The Daily Express)
the Mail Online:
How they make YOUR lunchtime sarnie: Migrant workers use their BARE HANDS to churn out three millions sandwiches a week... I refuse to link to the Mail Online, so here's the Huffington Post article that discusses it.
These are fairly extreme examples, but they are real headlines from British papers. They incite hatred and provide a slow drip feed of hate and fear that isolates and demonises different sets of people.
And I hear you saying, "but that's the Daily Express and the Daily Mail. They're known for writing like that."
Yes they are, but those headlines filter down to local communities and become the accepted facts. Too often no one checks to find out if the headlines are actually correct or what their motives might be.
I thought to myself, 'but I'm not dark-skinned or Eastern European or any other 'otherness' that's deemed 'foreign' am I? I really wanted to say that out loud, but I let it slide as it was a new job and I was worried about being seen to cause problems. I've regretted it ever since.
Yes I am a migrant in the UK, but when does that descriptor become a label?
It comes when it's used negatively against you. A while back a friend asked me what words I'd use to identify myself. I surprised myself by instantly saying, 'red-headed Australian'. I wondered why and realised that at home in Australia this was a given. It didn't need to be expressed.
My experience in the UK has been quite different. I am the one that is 'not from here', and referred to as the 'foreigner', 'the 'convict', the 'red-head', the 'ginger', 'ginga' or the 'colonial'. I've been in business meetings where people have talked about 'drowning gingers at birth'. I've had people say, 'another bloody arrogrant Australian' when I've politely answered a question. Another told me that 'all Australians are arseholes' whilst someone else even looked at my ankle and asked 'where is the ball and chain?'.
It certainly doesn't make you feel welcome. I must point out at this stage that I have met many lovely people too and live in a wonderful community. The more negative comments are definitely not the majority, but they are said with enough regularity to have an impact.
For them it's a throw away line.
For me, it's my every week, sometimes my every day.
So you decide to try to fit in more to make yourself less noticeable, not as open to the passive aggressive 'jokes'. But you're unaware that you have every chance of losing yourself. Without really realising, you slowly chip away at the fundamental descriptors that make you who you are. I ended up not sure who I was anymore and where I belonged.
However, last week I heard the most wonderful talk by Dalia Elmelige, on Radio 4's Four Thought. Her story of being a Muslim in America after 9/11 was fascinating especially her comments about being split between 2 cultures - Too Muslim for America, but not Muslim enough at home.
WHY DO LABELS EVEN MATTER?
They matter for two reasons.
And to end....
Here is to more conversations.
Despite the 'technical difficulties' of me not being able to hear or see anyone, I hope you enjoy it. It's certainly very weird talking to yourself, but definitely a hoot!
Any questions? Please post them for me in the comments below.
Drawn to a story arose from me venturing across an ocean, well, a few actually.
It was an adventure with expectations of wonder and a feeling that I was really grabbing at life. Moving from Australia to southern England seemed familiar in that I knew England well, having visited several times before, but I also felt a sense of something new and unknown, just as Jean Batten describes beautifully:
The opportunities and experiences of different cultures, of meeting new people, of trying new foods, watching different TV programs, learning new social 'rules' and local traditions, is incredibly enriching and enjoyable. However, it is also a particularly strange experience.
You naturally evolve. It’s a constant change, so subtle that you’re almost not aware of it – you use a different word here and there or the foods you start to hanker after shift slightly. And then you go home for a visit and you realise that you don’t quite fit there anymore....and you start to question.
Who am I? Where do I fit? What does it mean to be Australian? What does it mean to be British? or English? Complex thoughts and feelings running through me in ways I couldn't verbalise. At the same time I was very grateful for the conflicting thoughts as it's through this discomfort that the best thing comes.......personal growth.
I always been fascinated by stories and people and how people make meaning, how they cope with difficult experiences. As a young adult I thought I wanted to be a historian, but I realised it wasn't so much what happened that interested me, but why and how people coped...and so then I found myself in the hot seat...away from 'home' wondering how to cope with challenging thoughts and feelings around identity, culture and belonging. And it is here that this story begins...... picking up a pencil, and over the course of a year, creating a set of drawings that utlimately became a book about life 'elsewhere'.
But it's not just about me. It's about all of us who live elsewhere, all of us who love it, but also who are equally challenged by it. I am excited about having created Drawn to a Story to explore all our stories - to inspire, to support and to break down walls of 'the other', whomever that may be. After all our similarities are more than our differences.
Next time you meet a stranger, why not start up a conversation and find out their story? You might find that it's not too different to your own.