(sur)Reality Check

Generally speaking, I’m starting to forget I live in a foreign country. Sometimes when I used the word ‘home’, I’m actually referring to here rather than the good old US of A. The transition has been slow, subtle and admittedly painful at times, but it’s happening nonetheless. My vernacular is evolving at an impressive pace, as well as my wardrobe. I’m still glaringly American to everyone here of course, but I am pretty sure I seem less American than before to those Stateside. Basically, I’m acclimating, simple as that. Yet sometimes I have these weird almost out-of-body moments where I become acutely cognizant of the fact that I am an alien, that this culture isn’t MY culture and that really, truly I don’t understand what it’s like to be British any more than they can possibly understand what it’s like NOT to be British. These moments occur less and less frequently these days, but when they do, it’s quite powerful.

I had one of these strange epiphanies today on the Metro, coming home from work. ‘Epiphany’ isn’t exactly the correct word to describe the feeling though, it’s more like a sense of ‘deja-vu’ combined with ‘what the f*ck?’ and ‘where am I?’ all rolled into a ten-second mini roller coaster of the mind. There wasn’t any one thing that set me off today on the train… like every other day, I was reading my book and ignoring everyone around me, constantly stopping mid-sentence to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop. About the third go at double-checking the station sign, I became hyper-conscious of the people around me talking, and how different they sound to me. And then I noticed their clothes and their faces and started thinking about how they grew up compared to me, and within a few seconds I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m in a foreign country, this isn’t my life, this feels so weird.’. A momentary panic ensued followed by the reassuring announcement that the next stop was Regent Centre, which means I was almost home. Home. That’s what I thought instinctively, I’m almost home. And suddenly I didn’t feel foreign or weird or misplaced anymore.

I wonder sometimes if these moments will cease occurring, or if it will always be like this for me? I’m so intrinsically American, and proud to be so, that the thought of losing these periodic moments makes me sad in a way. I don’t crave to be different – I don’t want to stand out all the time. But I also don’t crave to be a nationality I’m not, nor to lose touch with the culture that formed me from infancy. Only time will tell I suppose… wait and see, wait and see.

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