Some wonder why I travel the world to search for my identity. Doesn’t everybody have one handed to him for free at birth? One that is defined by sex, age, upbringing, nationality, culture, society and so much more. To be honest, I was pretty okay with that for the first twenty years until I hit my quarter life crises.
Being a twenty-something woman and raised by Vietnamese parents was not something I could not accept. But my passport country, the interest in culture and approval of my small town society was something I could claim or discard.
It was the desire of being independent and finding a life that would fit me, being bullied by my asshole, fuckhead, so called “friends” from elementary through high school, grabbing the opportunity to not being tied down to one place. Whatever the reason was, and I’m sure at one point even the color of my heels seem to be a legit reason, it got me driving my school councilors crazy. I wanted to live in Hong Kong, for at least six months. They had to give me the exchange spot. We worked our way through tons of paperwork, made the calls, sacrificed a goat, and did interviews. I needed to figure out if this could be that idyllic place called “home”.
By the end of the first month I got back into my identity crisis. – Awesome.
After sort of getting settled in my awesome new apartment, with my awesome new furniture and ready to attend my awesome new school and job, I understood there was no way for me to get a permanent residence card during my stay this time. I had to take a moment to process that I only was granted two out of the three values I set myself. I’m born in Hong Kong in the grey area of nationalities, a great representation of where I am today: in between, the realization and calculation of my past and my next move. My days consist of sudden shocks of awareness of in between scholar and career life, in between countries and in between meals.
I’m brought up with the idea you should never be ashamed how you feel. (This might have been bait to get me out of my non-existing lesbian closet or my very real depressive suicidal spiral.)
The Netherlands has tried to brand themselves as open-minded and multicultural. In the recent years this has changed into a close-curtain culture with a lot of finger pointing. I enjoy my student life in Amsterdam where boundaries and values appear to be softer than the north where someone with dark hair is still being hit on with lame pick-up lines that contain words such as “exotic” and “spring roll”. It’s hard to be yourself when a part of society isn’t tolerant when you’re judged for simply your appearance.
The emotional bond with a culture should allow me to be proud of “my” country; it should give me the security of going one step further. It goes beyond just understanding the connotations of an orange, a lotus and a Bauhinia flower. Obsessing over these small details made me come to a semi-conclusion until I hit my mid-life crisis and run out of first world problems, such as marrying Ryan Gosling or buying my fifth Bentley;
Maybe I don’t need one country that’s my own, since borders seem to fade when you’re high on jetlag’s all the time anyway.
By choice, from now on I’ll be a citizen of the world instead.
Aerial view of Hong Kong by AirPano.