I have been considering the issue of duality. At the very surface level, I am a Gemini, 2 sided, 2 faces. This seems to be an ongoing theme in my life and something that I seek (sometimes unknowingly) and something that I process continuously. It’s probably why I love Batman/Bruce Wayne so much. I love the tragedy of an individual that channeled his pain/rage/anger/madness into something that beat back evil with his bare hands. Both Batman and Bruce Wayne are masks and hopefully somewhere in between is just a man/soul. Both masks are his demise because neither is sustainable. Can one person, although extraordinary, really fight evil?
I have also worn many masks. Some have come to pass. I use to pretend to be American. I mimicked an accent and a demeanor that I thought characteristic of American children. I did this in my adolescence and college years and even during my 20s. I did it to fit into a way of life as a means of survival. If children can make fun of you for having the wrong set of clothes, imagine what they will say about cultural differences? I couldn’t hide it all the time. Imagine what the kids said over liverwurst sandwiches and hopia (a Chinese/Filipino pastry) in the lunchroom. I also couldn’t hide a mindset. It is taking a mountain to change this and hopefully I can cover this during a different entry. This has been on my mind as well.
Perhaps I just had a tough audience. I didn’t grow up in a quiet southern or mid western town where the way of relating is different. I grew up on Strong Island. Kids were culturally diverse but also tough. Perhaps it was also the kind of person I was/am – fragile/sensitive. I didn’t learn to hide the weirdness until later on, when I really mastered the mask. It wasn’t just a culture I had to smooth over. It was what my therapist called creativity but what can easily be perceived as an immaturity/weirdness that was oozing out of my pores. I oozed weirdness out of my pores! I spoke to mailboxes as a kid, partly because mailboxes were novel and party because I didn’t have anyone really with whom to talk. The kids around me couldn’t understand my accent and honestly I didn’t have the vocabulary yet. I didn’t have the cool indifference and sarcasm that I have observed to be characteristically American. Also, I really was immature. Someone said once that my American self was born the day I arrived here. I do think I was 7 years behind my 7 year old peers. Through it all, despite my issues, weirdness, I did actually become the American face I wore. This was startlingly to me when I visited Italy for the first time. I wanted to blend in (like I could with an Asian face in a small Italian village) and be among the foreigners I embrace here in the states. Instead, the Italians regarded me like an American in their midst. Actually they wondered what an Asian was doing there. By then I had accepted that being American was a mask, I had no idea it had become the truth simply because I had been here for so long. I didn’t know it until I left and became immersed in another culture.
I think of it in these terms because in order to gain my American citizenship I had to give up my other citizenship. It almost hurts to think about this a little bit. Now that I don’t have to wear my American mask and I am free to wear my other half. I have been considering applying for dual citizenship. I have not been back to my home country for almost 3 decades. After connecting with my cousin who lives there, I really want to make the connection with the part of myself that I have denied for as long as I have been here.
I hearken back to my days as an undergraduate when a very distinguished professor lectured about Toni Morrison’s Beloved. We discussed Hagar whose facade fell apart in the rain. We discussed this phenomenon because she was a creature that could not connect with the land. Without the connection her hair and dress washed away. I have not had my hair and dress completely wash away, instead I have felt my mind fall apart without the connection to the land. It wasn’t until this African American Migration class did I realize what was going on. I was lucky in the way that my parents never made our situation limiting and they wanted me to have the same opportunity as my American peers. It took this class and this professor to make me see how migration was the cause and how the disconnection from the land could be so detrimental. I started to understand what was going on in my head and how it could and could not be fixed.
I use to want to disconnect from my home country for reasons I will discuss later. I thought as a kid that being here was a promise of something better. Honestly, it has all come to pass, the part that is better. I have the life and the family I always wanted but not having that connection to my home land for so long is an ache inside of me. I was amazed that I could make a connection with an estranged cousin. As little girls we did everything together. We looked so much alike we could have been twins. I didn’t know I was abandoning her when we moved. I didn’t know I wasn’t going back. Rebuilding my history with her and possibly a future with her in it would be integrating all of my masks. Having that on paper, my connection with her, my connection to the land and our past would mean everything. I don’t want to lose her again. I don’t want to lose myself again.