Join now

Identity or Something Like It

In Anglo cultures (particularly in the US) you are very often asked where you are from — not necessarily because you may happen to have an accent, but because it's a question that is almost naturally embedded in casual conversation, right along with "what do you do for a living?". So, where you come from and where you are have become the basis for defining you as an individual.

A Nomadic Identity

In the case of the United States, this is a bit ironic, considering that it is such a young country, and your origin could very well be considered an almost trivial aspect of your life. However, it is easy to draw the conclusion that life in the US is viewed as some type of a journey — where you come from, what you do for a living, and, therefore, where you are headed. That may be why the rags-to-riches stories are so celebrated and revered over there and why pop culture echoes this concept.

You hardly ever meet someone who is from somewhere and stays there forever. The US is a land of nomads. The citizens of Spain are also big travelers, but that notion is barely noticed — it's not something that they wear up on their sleeve. Living in Madrid, you get to meet people from all over Spain and from other parts of the world, but many tend to dismiss Madrid's nomadic nature. This is perhaps because what's brought here from abroad is more eagerly embraced than what's exported. This applies, I think, to both cultural phenomena in their most trivial sense, and general conceptions of life — how we choose to live our life, how we balance work, personal space, etc.

Two Countries Shaping One Identity

The concept of identity or what it entails has always been somewhat present in my life. It became even clearer, however, when I was about 16 or 17 years old. At that time, I started to go out with friends and bouncers at the entrance of pubs and clubs would ask for my ID, which would prompt an immediate reminder in my head that I was a little ''different'' from the rest. I'm not a Spanish citizen, so I always had to carry a residence permit or my US passport. Granted, when I was in elementary school, people would notice my blond hair and they would call me by last name, which would accentuate my foreigner status.

However, I soon realized that I knew very little about "my country." That is why I decided to move back right after high school, when I was 18 years of age.

Living in New York, my ''city'' (and I use that term loosely and somewhat compliantly), was the best awakening I could have ever imagined. I had the unique opportunity to live with my Dad, and I was exposed to a rich variety of cultures since day one. Living there — out of my comfort zone — forced me, in a way, to be more in touch with myself, particularly, with my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. When I arrived, I didn't know anybody. I was thrown into a culture I wasn’t familiar with but felt as though I should be. Somehow, I took it upon myself to embrace a culture that did not feel like mine. My father being British, the need to embrace my Anglo side was even stronger at the time. It was also also a way of getting closer to him.

On more than one occasion, I thought of throwing in the towel because it seemed impossible to find my place there, but then my sense of pride would kick in, and also my not wanting to upset all those people that had seen me off — my friends and family. I have always tended to draw a parallel between real life and fiction in that the latter represents or embodies our dreams and aspirations.


About the author:

George Cunningham was born in NY to a Spanish housewife and a British UN economist, but he spent most of his childhood in Spain. He came to Madrid at age three and went back to NY when he was 18 to explore his roots and attend college, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in Media Studies. After 14 years experiencing NY life, he came back to Spain almost 5 years ago. He enjoys writing, movies and reading about psychology. He is also a confirmed news junkie with a keen interest in politics and entertainment. Recently, he completed a master's degree in Digital Marketing and E-commerce and he's now trying his hand at blogging and storytelling.

Article Topics