Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I should really be asleep.
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about being different. Where I come from, that’s a condition devoutly to be wished, a prized and sought after THING TO BE. The rat race, the lemmings on the cliff, the sheep bounding over the same fence one after another have got nothing on that one individual that stands out from the crowd.
Me? I hate standing out. Seriously. HATE.IT. I think that’s why I went into interpreting as a profession, perhaps on a subconscious level anyway. I like blending into the background. Hmm, maybe that’s why the acting-centric drama major I tried so hard to fit into in college became a backstage-crew-centric minor by the time I graduated.
My sister has always been a shining star to my wallflower, and as I’m older and wiser and all that now I know I’m okay with that. I prefer it, to be honest. I know, blogging is a bit egotistical, but I think of it as writing practice more than anything else. We grew up moving around a lot due to my dad’s work, and as a result I spent a lot of very uncomfortable and anxious times being “the new kid” who is most definitely “not from around here” and therefore is “different.” Not good times. Whereas my sister could (and still can) just roll with it, I backed myself into a safe corner and stayed there, for the most part.
So, back to the topic at hand. I had an incident today at the store that brought home again how I hate being different. If I had a penny for every time a customer in the store asked me where I’m from or made a comment about my accent I’d be rich by now. Rich. Today, though, one customer went a bit too far and, after touching me to get my attention (me no likey outside of Deaf Culture and close friends), apparently ran from the store, all up in a tizzy because he’d met a “real American downstairs in non-fiction!”
Non-fiction…because really, who could make this stuff up?
I remember thinking how I just wished for once I could speak to someone here and no one would know I was anything more than Nancy who works in a bookshop. I am tired of being different. I am tired of being the fish out of water, of being the one “not from around here.” I think sometimes that expats mistakenly feel that we aren’t allowed that indulgence, that our job is to acclimate and blend and become acquainted and all those other things that come with moving to a foreign country.
Well, to use the language of my “current” people, bollocks to that. I am who I am, and whether I’m a lifer expat or just here for two years, no matter if I’m on a student visa or just gotten my UK citizenship and snazzy maroon passport, I’m still me and me isn’t British and isn’t ever going to be. Bad attitude? Maybe, but on days like today it’s all I’ve got. Allowed the pity-party or not, it’s here. I’m different from almost everyone around me. I don’t have close English friends here like I do at home. Home still = America in my mind and my vocabulary.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sleep now because I’ve got to go far far away tomorrow to get back to who I really am via an interpreting gig down south. Tomorrow I can be with other displaced Americans before I have to go back to being on display at work in the bookshop.
One last thing: If you can spare a good thought or prayer or whatever it is you do for the people of Christchurch, NZ, please do. The one close friend I do have here in Keighley is a Kiwi expat and I can’t imagine how it feels to watch an earthquake of that magnitude cause such devastation back home and be so far away.
1 thought on “Different.”
I know the feeling. I once asked my dad how he felt (he's a Hungarian living in California and has spent most of his life as an expat) about having an accent and sticking out, and he said it didn't bother him in California, because MOST people were from somewhere else originally. But here, where immigration is still not quite up to California standards (where Caucasians are in the minority now), being different in terms of your accent is enough to get a mention – a lot. Luckily I've noticed it less and less with people over the years – not many comment on it anymore, and strangely, when I've come across people from India/Mid East for whom English is a second language, I am pretty sure they don't even notice that my accent isn't British! They seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I'm from the US (and my accent hasn't Britified, before you ask, not an iota). But I know that when I go 'home' to the US (and it always will be home) I feel instantly more confident because there I blend, there I don't have to worry about people noticing everything about me especially (including possible faults, or having stereotypes about me based solely on my accent). So, yeah, I hear ya. It is tiring sometimes to be the novelty act… Hang in there.