I have never seen myself as an immigrant. The stories of those before me who had done the same–crossed many waters, flown many hours, and left family in lands far away–had always struck a chord with me, but never truly resonated in that “yes, I share your story too,” way.
Theirs (for “immigrant” was always someone, in my mind, who was an other, a not-me, a someone else) was a story of uprooting and replanting lives in fresh soil. My story cannot claim to any center-of-the-earth-reaching roots that I left, by any stretch of imagination. I have lived in 15 houses, 6 cities, and 3 countries, and have, on average, moved about every 1 and a half years. Moreover though, I was not leaving to replant myself in a new place for good–at least, that never has been the original intention, which of course made my story different, I reasoned. The immigrant narrative was also one of leaving the familiar for a place of foreignness and newness in every possible way. Whereas my own experiences of leaving did not always mean leaving the familiar–I have always left places, people, and ways of life that have felt both comfortable and head-spinningly unfamiliar simultanesouly, at all times. This notion of singularity in foreignness and familiarity, I’ve found to be singularly foreign.
As I’ve thought about the idea of the immigrant identity since, I’ve come to realize that my experiences align more closely to this cultural narrative than I may have rejected earlier. If you accept that an immigrant is one who must embrace and is fully aware of their otherness; one who craves more, seeks opportunities that may not at first be visible to the eye, and does not see distance as an obstacle to their heart’s dreams; one who bridges, balances, and battles compromise and collision of cultures and worlds; one who embodies postmodernism and sees identity as living in multiplicities of self… then, maybe, it’s time for me to reconsider.
Or maybe, it’s time we share and circulate narratives of migration, movement, and global transience. Because while the immigration stories of yesteryear are valuable in shaping how we think about non-normative personas in the Western world especially, the narratives of those who fit neither here nor there–and for whom leaving and movement are more central to their sense of self than roots–may very well inform the stories of tomorrow.
So here’s one step towards populating that database of stories and experiences–we may not always have an easy or short answer to the “where’s home for you?” question, and we may or may not want to set those roots in the future, but for now, we live as transients.