Why do so many people assume that you need to belong and have affiliation towards the place of your birth and to your family? Am I abnormal for not feeling that way? Am I a social outcast for just being so different from everyone in the country where I was born?
I was born in the Middle East. And since then, I have this Middle Eastern Identity stamped on every legal identification document that I own. Did I even choose this identity? Why do I have something forced on me that I didn’t choose? Is this enough to define me? Am I Middle Eastern just because I was born there? I might be on papers, yet, I genuinely don’t feel like one and if I have the choice, I don’t want to be one. I really don’t feel like part of this culture at all.
I never really questioned my Middle Eastern identity until I went to university in England and lived there since I was 18. I feel like living in England had changed every aspect of who I am. I became very individualistic, liberal and tolerant towards other cultures. However, this has come at its costs; I stopped getting along with most people in The Middle East and I lost so many contacts. I am living in this bubble that keeps clashing with my family’s bubble just because I have beliefs that are so different than theirs. I don’t, for example, aspire to be “married”. I want to have a successful career. Everyone tries to remind me of my “heritage”, yet I don’t think this is something that defines me cause I didn’t choose this Middle Eastern identity.
I was born to Muslim parents who automatically passed on their “Islamic” beliefs to me. I disagree with most of Islam’s fundamental beliefs despite the fact that I respect them. I have always had this mixed up identity and confusion about religion and have seen it as a separator that separates people apart. Starting with my parents who divorced because of mom’s strict “Muslim styled” life vs. dad’s less Muslim led life. Or I have seen it contrast my life between my Catholic school with Jesus and the Cross hanged on all my teacher’s necks vs. the “Allah”, “Mohammed” and ” the mom with the Hijab” life I had at home. I have seen the mere idea of religion diminish and evaporate away in front of my eyes during my time at Secular England and I believe that this made me a secular myself despite my religious mom who waits for me every end of the term to remind me to keep up with my prayers.
I also had this family identity confusion ever since my parents divorced. You know how some people say they belong to their “family”? I have seen people say “I travel and go everywhere but I know my roots are with my parents” and people saying how they feel like they belong to their “moms” or “dads. Unfortunately, I have never felt this way. My parent’s divorce when I was 9 made me feel less adequate and that I don’t have a family to belong to. This was exacerbated with my dad’s remarriage when I was 12. His marriage came like a hard slap in the face. A slap that reminded me that I lost my dad forever to some other woman and that I am no longer his only “girl”. My mom disallowed us to visit dad for years onwards, and this made me feel more and more like a zero on the left in my dad’s life even after I moved to live with him. My mom is a narcissistic mom. LOL. Anyways, long story short. I never felt connected to her in any way. I always struggled with obsessive attachments over some older female teachers in an attempt to find a mother to belong to. I have also never felt connected to any of my extended family members. My aunts from mom’s sides are concerned about their makeup, friends and going out all the time. My aunts from dad’s sides are just settled in for their Middle Eastern lives and I don’t agree with what they stand for. My grandparents are very distant as well. Hence, this idea of family connection has never really been a part of my life.
I feel like this now makes me clash with everyone in the Middle East. I don’t feel that I want to settle for a “Muslim” Middle Eastern life. I don’t want to be part of a family that I don’t belong to. I want to build my life the way I want to. A life where marriage won’t be my biggest accomplishment. A life where my career at a big multinational (hopefully), my degrees, and my hard work will define me. A life where religion, a dysfunctional family, or the Middle East are not part of it. However, my Middle Eastern identity comes again to control me and remind me that I am not free to choose where and who I want to be…