I sighed in relief as I rested my last box on the ground; I was finally done moving in. I went down stairs to get a well-deserved bottle of water and meet my new roommates whom I had not shared any past interactions with, except for the self mandated social media stalk, of course.
After some polite small talk the infamous question that always seems to come around, came up, “so, where are you from?” How was I going to play this one out, was I going to simplify it into one country or was I going to give them the play by play as to why I identify myself with three countries.
So, I weighed my options. My first choice, keeping it short and sweet, always makes me feel like I am selling myself short. My second choice, long and detailed, usually leaves others with a look of confusion coated with some apathy, which somehow always seems to trump back to confusion.
I chose option two, partly because I wanted to make conversation but mostly because I am a bit stubborn at times which leads me to refuse selling myself short for the commodity of others.
The long and detailed play by play I presented included that work had brought my Italian side of the family to Venezuela after World War two, where I was born. Six years later, in efforts to provide my sister and I with a better life, my parents decided to move to the United States. I was born in one country, grew up in another and have my entire decent as well as family residing in a third and different country. Coming up with an answer for those four little words, “where are you from,” required more brainstorming for me than for the average person, something I quickly grew very accustomed to.
Being so culturally well rounded, although it has it’s complications, has opened me up to becoming a more understanding and accepting individual for the simple reason that I have had to incorporate three culturally diverse countries into my life and adapt to their distinct way of living. From languages to food and religion, the three nationalities that not only make up who I am, but have also taught me that life and principles from other countries are not necessarily better or worse, but different.
Although, at times, I have felt like there are three different people confined into my 5 foot 4 inch feisty female figure, and I will pompously admit to facing some serious identity crises after spending long summers in Italy, Christmas’ in Venezuela and Thanksgiving in the united states, the appreciation for diverse values I have collected through being culturally assorted is an appreciation I have not been exposed to through any other experience.
Young me, submerged into these three different cultures coming at me from all angles, deeply struggled to find out who I truly was. Corny, I know, but very true. After spending a summer in Italy with my grandparents, I was determined to give myself, as well as my closet, a make over and begin to dress more like the European women who surrounded me. During one of my many mall visits I spotted the loose, baggy and unflattering cheetah joggers I feel in love with.
When I came back to the United States I never wore the pants again partly due to the fact that they were extremely unflattering and joggers were not considered colloquial clothing yet, but mostly due to the fact that they were not American me, they were Italian me.
It wasn’t until I took some time to grow into those three cultures that I was able to figure out who I was, as well as, travel and shop with out temporarily morphing myself into someone I am not.
According to the statement released by the American Council on Education in 2012, Diversity not only enriches an educational experience, but also allows for personal growth and promotes a healthier society. Cultured individuals are essentially assisting in making society more holistic as well as generating more realistic worldly settings.
Granted, it is easier for a varied nationalistic individual like myself to feel secluded due to my cultural differences, however, the universal views and values I bring to the table not only give me a sense of importance, but also empower me to honor my multi-cultural backgrounds and refrain from letting them lurk in the shadows.
So, after what felt like 15 minutes of hearing myself speak, I take a sip of my water and to my surprise find my roommates deeply intrigued and eager to tell me more about themselves. I guess my different backgrounds just sparked up some new and exciting conversation between my new roomies and I.