Thursday, June 14, 2018

In Between

Many times, I feel as if I'm between two cultures.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences this.

Being born and raised in America by two parents who were born and raised in the Philippines is something that I appreciate and despise. I don't mean any of that in a political or socioeconomic sense, or anything else of that nature. (I tend to keep my own opinions of such things to myself.) I do mean that it feels like both a blessing and a curse when I'm trying to figure out who I am as a person.

In my early years, I was taught English and Tagalog concurrently, but sadly my parents listened to some poor advice and continued to teach me English only. Of course, now they know that the advice wasn't sound, and everyone regrets it.

I love English and languages in general. I've learnt French for my four years in high school, a semester of it in college. I've studied German for a semester in college. I had a friend who was deaf for years and tried to learn American Sign Language. And because of my piano instructor who is Danish, I've been trying to teach myself Danish as well. And just for fun, I once taught myself Braille and Morse code, skills that have fallen to the wayside due to disuse.

In addition to learning all these languages, I've made up a few of my own throughout the years because of the imaginary worlds I would daydream about would have their own culture reflected in the language they spoke.

Despite how much I love languages, Tagalog, the language so closely associated to my family and their history... Tagalog is the one language that I find myself frustrated to learn.

Tagalog is really easy to learn compared to English and the other languages I'm learning. There aren't too many exceptions to grammar, no annoying "feminine, masculine, or something" nouns I have to learn (I'm looking at you two especially, French and German), there aren't even any pronouns in the language.

Despite hearing the language spoken in my household on a daily basis between my mother and my father, I'm angry at the barrier I experience when I try to approach learning Tagalog.

Part of it is my attitude, most likely. Because I once knew it, because I can understand maybe 30%-50% of a Tagalog conversation compared to 10% of a French one, because it's supposed to be a part of me somehow, I give up when I make mistakes or my accent is weird or any other insecurities language learners have to overcome. My attitude when learning French was more along the lines of, "It's okay, you're only learning."

Whereas when learning Tagalog: "If only your parents taught you when you were little..."

Learning Tagalog is the first facet of this in-between-ness block I've had to grapple with a lot lately.

Another large facet would be my inability to relate to either American or Filipino culture at times. For example, in the Philippines, it's not uncommon to see multi-generation households, extended family members living under one roof... And yet I still I feel strange now that I'm in my twenties and still living with my parents. I'm fortunate that my parents don't find it weird, but with me growing up in America where the common idea was that once the children grew to adulthood they moved out when they were ready also resonates with me.

Of course, trends nowadays suggest otherwise. But those trends tend to reflect economic reasons instead of traditional reasons.

One side of me resists wanting to live with my parents like this. The other resists wanting to move away and have my own life. One side embraces the idea of all the in-laws under one roof. One side embraces the independence. Both want tradition. Both want change. And I'm not yet sure which one will win out.

The last large facet to my disconnect with my identity lately is probably because I haven't found many people who are experiencing this in my day-to-day life. I know of a few people online, but yet that personal connection is lacking. My brother and my sister likely experience this to some respect.

But my brother never had Tagalog introduced to him. My sister has, and also goes through the same "I understand when people are talking negatively to me in Tagalog" phenomenon. I know I have all the resources to connect myself to my family's heritage, and yet I shy away from trying.

When I see myself in the figurative mirror, I feel like I'm too Filipino to be American, yet too American to be Filipino.

So as of late, I've settled on throwing my hands in the air and giving up on trying to associate myself with one or the other because, in the end, I'm still me.

I'm still Jodee, the girl who eats way too much ube-flavored ice-cream.

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