I’m from here, I’m from there, I’m from here and there. Sometimes describing where I’m from ends up sounding like a Dr. Seuss poem. I was born in the United States but raised in a Palestinian household. I embrace both of my cultures and I am eternally grateful for the broadened horizons I was inherently born with.
But I am a “third-culture kid,” which left me with an identity crisis at an early age. A third-culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her life outside their parents’ culture. The rhetoric of “go back to where you came from” doesn’t work for us because when we do go back to our parents’ homelands, we stick out in more ways than one.
Our accents are always a little bit off, and that’s considering we know our parent’s native tongue in the first place. We get taunted with the term “Amercani” (American) by our cousins when we dress different or blast the latest hip-hop jam on car rides. It isn’t meant as a derogatory term, but it still reinforces the notion that we are outsiders to our family’s culture.
Being a minority in the United States, I would long for the days where I could hop on a plane and go to a place where I was surrounded by people that looked like me, thought like me and spoke like me. But when I started visiting Palestine, I found myself missing my familiar life in the United States. I’ve always wanted to be attached to just one country and have one set of loyalties.
But there are pros and cons to every situation. Being from both the West and the Middle East, I have a multicultural worldview, which has benefitted my adaptability skills. I can speak two languages fluently, which can help me in my career. My taste buds are prepared to devour a hamburger with root beer one day and a shawarma sandwich with yogurt drink the next. I am prepared for a line dance at any given moment, from the Electric Slide to a Palestinian Dabkeh. I’m now learning to accept that I will never be a part of one culture and that it’s okay to carry that with me throughout my life.
Story: Lara Hamdan