“You and I are both leading extraordinary lives,” I was told by a friend at an expat birthday party on Friday night. His extraordinary life is to work in many different countries, earn well, and then retire to a villa in the south of France.
Sounds much more enticing than my extraordinary life, doesn’t it? My extraordinary life involves living in a country that is less developed than my own, with a husband who is (shock horror, to some people) shorter and darker than me. People sometimes wonder if I’m happy, if I’m really content living like I am.
It’s a curious question because I’ve gotten used to my life. It feels quite normal to me these days, and I don’t notice such things. However, if I’m with my husband and a group of foreigners, I feel odd. Although I can easily be the part of a foreigner, because it still is a part of me, I sadly feel that I don’t truly belong. It’s not entirely who I am anymore. I’m different. These days, I’m incomplete bits and pieces of so many different things. I can say I’m Australian by nationality, BUT that’s not really me. My mentality is much broader now, I’m part of a intercultural relationship, and I live a simple Indian life. My own culture feels kind of strange. I can also say that I have a degree in accounting, BUT I hope never to use it again. So, it’s not really reflective of me.
Life was so simple when I had a comfortable, ordinary, and socially acceptable identity. White, Australian, university degree, professional job… the list could go on. I fitted nicely in the box. No one would think to question my existence and if I was content living like that. It would mostly just be assumed that I was. After all, I was doing what society aspires to. I didn’t question it too much myself. Even though I didn’t like my work, I just accepted it as a part of life, and trudged through it every day.
But now everything has changed. I must admit, I’ve been having a few low energy days questioning where I really fit in, and where will I fit in in the future — whether in India or Australia. What has happened to my old identity? The big question of “who am I?” looms. I’m actually quite disappointed in myself for thinking like this. Not only because I know that at the bottom of my heart I really don’t want to be “ordinary” (although it does seem conveniently tempting at times) but because I know that spiritually, I’ve moved beyond this way of thinking.
There is actually one simple cause of my issue. And the cause is in the answer to “who am I?”.
Instead of saying “I am a soul who is here to have [whatever experiences]“, people usually define themselves according to more superficial factors such as “I am [whatever profession]“. “I am [whatever nationality]“. “I am [whatever skin colour]“. They get attached to these superficial definitions and start behaving according to them. Fanatical white people are a good example of this.
If I view myself as “a courageous soul who is here to learn to be bold, to explore and broaden my knowledge in a culture that is different to mine, and to give something to the world through my writing”, it sounds good. It makes my soul happy too. And all the other superficial factors fall by the wayside. I know I’m on the right path, and I do feel content. More than content actually. Quite ecstatic. However, if regress and start thinking about who I am based on superficial definitions, it makes me feel troubled. My ego gets in the way. I feel like I’ve lost my identity and I feel out of place.
So, who are you?