jeudi 27 janvier 2011

Identity and displacement

Poster for our show
 Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I am in a state today. Not an altogether bad state to be in, but one that is most definitely volatile. I have been working on my Fresh Voices piece for the last two hours and a half now, and I'm at a point where my excitement has become a substantial emotion - it's leaping from my heart, but isn't yet pouring on the page. That's why I decided to pause and jam with you, dear blog readers, and tell you where I am so far in this process. I need gentle ears to listen, and gentle voices to comment, if you feel so inclined.

As I may have said before, for Fresh Voices : The Matter of Moments, I am talking about the experience of being bi-cultural, cross-cultural or even 'third cultural', even if that's not technically how I would be defined, but since my Mom was a "Third culture kid", I qualify as a 'second generation TCK'. And, by working on this solo piece, I am consciously realizing to what extent my life and whole being has been molded by the fact that I come from - and have travelled to and from - multiple places. In addition to Le Tiers Instruit, I have been reading Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds. Both books touch on the notions of multiplicity, transition, change, uprooting, nomadic existence, movement, etc. in ways that are enlightening to someone who had never been able to pinpoint where (some of) her general angst came from.

And as I am identifying with these concepts, and as I see myself fitting into some of the sociological models described, I feel a renewed freedom to think about my own life and rekindle memories that were and are important even though they may have seemed trite at the time. I still don't know how my Fresh Voices piece is going to be structured, and I really want to come up with a structure tonight (before tomorrow's sharing with company members). But perhaps sharing some of these memories and writing them for readers - rather than merely jotting them down for me - will give me the impetus to find a performative way to get all this stuff figured out.

Here are a few passages I have been working on today.

To have unresolved grief is ignoring the loss one feels. Loss of someone because you moved away and you know you won't stay in touch in the same way. Loss of something like walking to and from the library, through the stately Jardin des Plantes, admiring the busts of great naturalists on the Natural History Museum building. Unresolved grief is not taking the time to say "I miss this" and "I miss that". Unresolved grief is feeling guilty about feeling sad over everything that has changed, that is no longer the way it was.

You dismiss your memories and curse yourself for being 'nostalgic'. If being 'nostalgic' is what you need to do to mourn the loss of what you loved - love -, then, by all means, indulge.

Gleaned from another blog post: "Acte d'auto-censure dont je suis trop capable quand je veux quelquechose" - depriving myself from things. Why? Partly as a way to train myself, for when I'll have to let go of things I love. So sometimes I overthink my wants. Do I really want to do it? What will be the cost, the consequence, of doing this? What amount of pain will I feel once I need to let it/him/her/them go?

Every summer, on my list of "Things to Do while in The United States", there was : "drink at least one frappucino from Starbucks". This was before Starbucks had colonized every country in Europe and set shop in many Parisian buildings (interestingly, when Starbucks established itself in France, while I was a teenager, I decided to boycott the company, instead favoring traditionnal cafés). Other items on the list included "go to a craft store and buy stuff with pocket money", "eat real baked potatoes" (the realness came from the tin foil around the potato and the sour cream on top), "eat chinese food at the food court" and other typical American experiences not to be missed. My mother made sure we did all those things. She instinctively understood our need to relate to the US, and to establish a sense of comfort by reaching for the reassuring little things we knew and enjoyed. So, if the frappucino had not yet been ingested and we were about to leave the continent, my mother made sure I was brought to a Starbucks in the airport for the much enjoyed drink. It became my way of saying goodbye.

And now I live here. And when I go back to France, I stock up on certain things: tea, chocolate, bras, makeup. I hear French all around me and it feels both comforting and stifling, because I know that, from that point on, only my French self counts. On the American side of the ocean, I have no problem displaying my two passports. When I talk to people, I'm confident that they will regard me as specific to myself - maybe American, maybe not, maybe a little. In the States, I sense that my Frenchness is visible in some way. I don't wear it with my accent, but I wear it on my face, with my clothes, in my eating habits. Someone once said I "looked French" - whatever that means- but, I believed him.

In France, not only do I "look French" - again, whatever that means - but I speak French with no accent. I act French too. Polite but distant, not looking at people in the eyes unless I intend to talk to them, reading a magazine that I want to be seen reading [l'Express] rather than the one I really want to read [Glamour]. So, when I enter the French zone, I know that very few people will recognize my other self. And my instinct is to hide the American in me. The blue passport in my bag, the red one in hand.

The moments right after the plane ride are always crystal clear. Past the generic feel of the airport, I spot my mother - her scarf, the lenght of her hair, her signature walk. The embrace, the first few words, the entrance in the parking lot and the sight of her car. Peugeot 309, at least 22 years old by now, everything manual. A white tin can with its distinctive smell. The road from the airport to the appartment. Smaller roads than the wide expanse of those in America. Those American roads always shocked me when I came off the plane and rode in my uncle's car every summer, when we would come to visit. In France, the roads are now punctuated by radars : grey, rectangular boxes placed at strategic points to record speed and deliver fines. My mother rages at them as we pass them by, below the speed limit.
Slowly, everything starts coming back.

1 commentaire:

stephanie a dit…

Oh my dear sister! you write the things that I only ever feel and can never coherently express.