There is an allure to the clean slate, to starting over and re-inventing oneself. Forming new habits and routines that nudge us to become a more idealized version of ourself. I have been in Seattle for a week now, and this is the question I am asking myself: Who am I about to become? Who do I want to become?
Last Saturday, Iris and her parents dropped me, my three bags an my one-way ticket off at the airport. My flight to Houston was full of Mexican-Americans who, having visited family with overstuffed suitcases of the fruits of capitalism, now returned to their daily routines. Their passports were American, their English was perfect, and their Spanish was mostly broken. It was unsettling that I couldn’t distinguish between the Mexicans and the Mexican-Americans until they spoke, and there was something unsettling about feeling unsettled in the first place. I must adjust to living in a multilingual, multicultural country where consumerism and self-improvement are the common unifiers.
In retrospect, my biggest mistake in Mexico was trying too hard to be Mexican and not hard enough to just be myself. My foreignness was always the defining feature of my identity and so, to fit in, I worked as hard as possible to improve my Spanish, learn the cultural references and understand the political system. I ignored my individuality in an attempt to be accepted by the collective.
The upside is that, for the most part, I was accepted. I wasn’t just another American in Mexico City who spends all of his time with other Americans complaining about the country’s inconveniences. The downside is that my mission to become accepted as Mexican distracted me from questions of who I have become as an individual.
Here in Seattle, I am mostly free to be myself without the constant cultural anxiety of trying to fit in. Then again, that lingering feeling of not fitting in is probably one of the most defining factors of the person I have become.
I think you can move to a big, cosmopolitan city like New York and easily find yourself surrounded by people just like you. Or, you can move to a fairly homogenous city like Seattle and make an effort to have a truly diverse group of friends. At least, that is what I hope awaits us.
Oh, and we just bought a house!