Let’s get straight to the point – I’m having an identity crisis. I was going to write, ‘a bit of a….’, but it’s anything but.
I was in Edinburgh the weekend before last for the wedding of a good friend, from the Highlands. I met her here in Barcelona, she moved to Italy with her Italian boyfriend three years ago and will return to the bonny land with him, next week, to begin the next chapter of her life. Their life. I’m so used to talking in the singular that I forget people are capable of having relationships and planning things as a team….. Yesterday, I said goodbye to another friend who was heading back to Scotland, who had missed home for a couple of years and finally bit the bullet and bought a one-way ticket.
Being at the wedding was really special. Not least because it was a good friend, but because it opened my eyes to what it’s like to have a strong cultural identity. And what it’s like to be proud of your heritage/roots/background, however you want to phrase it. There was traditional food on the menu, traditional dress for the chaps (kilts are my new favourite thing, by the way. Oooh la la, ^fans self^), traditional music and traditional dancing. Oh, and whiskey. Natch. And everyone was all in. It was beautiful.
My Irish friend here, feels equally strongly about her cultural heritage. Spanish, Catalan, Latin American friends; they all feel the strong pull of their homeland and connected, on a deep, personal level. I don’t feel that.
These last few of weeks I’ve found myself struggling to answer the often asked question, ‘De donde eres?’ Quite obviously, with my white hair, pale, slightly freckled skin, and lack of lithe limbs – I ain’t no local. A friend and I often joke that we’re ‘Welsh-shaped’, you know…… like a pit pony.
How do you decide where you’re from? Do you identify by the place you were born? In which case, I’m Australian. Do you identify by the passport you carry? In which case, I’m British. Do you identify yourself by your parentage? In which case I’m three quarters Welsh, one quarter English. We think……. one side of the family is somewhat unclear.
I have literally no emotional connection to Australia whatsoever, or desire to return there. I certainly don’t consider myself to be Australian. As for being British, well, I think most of you know how I feel about that, at the moment. (If you don’t, feel free to check out my Twitter feed, @diaryofannepank.) If someone asks me if I’m English, I say I’m Welsh. Then I have to explain where and what that is, because absolutely no-one knows. I find that eventually mentioning Tom Jones and Gareth Bale helps. Oh and occasionally, rugby. Or you can often find me air-drawing the United Kingdom, showing first Scotland then moving down through England and across the water to Ireland, then explaining that País de Galés is on the west coast between the latter two…. still, most people have no idea what I’m talking about. And am I Welsh, just because I lived there between seven and twenty-three? I’ve actually spent thirty-two years of my life not being there, so where does that leave me?
The question is, do we really need to pin ourselves down? Is it a necessity? I suppose I’m really asking myself this question, as I see clearly that those friends of mine, have no doubts whatsoever. Maybe more for others who ask the question, who need to place your face. Or maybe, us humans need to tether ourselves to something, otherwise we feel like there’s no solid earth beneath our feet. And we all know how that feels, like that moment, when travelling by plane, for a split second we realise there’s 30,000 feet of air directly beneath us. That’s certainly how I’ve felt lately. Who knows. I do have to admit to feeling a pang of something while in Edinburgh, and in the couple of weeks since. Envy, sadness, lacking? I couldn’t tell you.
What I do know is, when I fly back to Barcelona, I feel good. Excited like I did the first time I visited in the early nineties. When we head over the Pyrenees, I’m filled with joy and on the final approach over the bay I’m like a small child cracked up on Haribo and full fat Coke. (Other cola drinks and jelly sweets are available.)
So maybe I can’t identify exactly where I’m from, but I know where I am. And it feels like home.