The ones we got when we were kids: learning to walk, realizing we can’t fly, learning to bike, realizing the slope was a bit steeper than planned, learning to play and realizing that balls are heavy objects that can collide with one’s head quite easily. Cries. a bit of blood and a few scratches, a few scrapes. Smell of alcohol and the eosin that wouldn’t wash out, even after ten showers. Bandages and cotton pads. And a piece of chocolate, making the small injury worthwhile.
The extra scars, learning to live with. No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to see out of my left eye. Nothing but a useless blurry picture, with a few black spots on the way. The world looks distorted in a pretty fun way but it took me years to appreciate my difference. Kids all want to look the same.
The identity scars. After being lost teenagers, we turn into responsible grown-ups… yet, the “lost feeling” is never that far. A part of the life we work hard to build falls apart and we don’t know where to go or what to think.
I – quite romantically – thought that choosing a new country to live in was the ultimate freedom. After all, I didn’t choose where I was born, so why not ask for a refund and start from zero, wherever I felt like it? That’s partially what brought me to Canada. I didn’t give much thought to identity — who needs identity when you believe in Socialism and think that the Great Leap Forward could have worked?
And today, I find myself stuck in the middle. Canadian with a hint of French, of French with a hint of Canada? Canadian in France or French in Canada? Or forever a foreigner in both? Immigrating means losing a little piece of self, leaving a little chuck of heart left somewhere, having a little side of the brain that is quite never in sync with the new system. Am I doing things right? Am I adapting well enough? Am I doing everything I can?
I now speak English fluently enough, but I dream in many languages.My body probably adapted to the cold and to the North America fashion sense (no irony here), but people occasionally stop me in the street to ask me for directions in Lebanese, Russian or Spanish. My students wonder about best places to visit in France and Napoleon’s role in modern France, but I never got to visit my old country that much and I only know Chinese dynasties.
Even worse, I’m starting to believe in negotiations rather than in revolutions, in people’s right to have services rather than in the ultimate strike that would paralyze a country and I think citizens should take their responsibilities rather than relying on the state to solve their problems. Oh, and I put maple syrup rather than salted butter on my toast. I don’t understand the current reforms in France and to be honest, I didn’t try to: I know that people protest for the sake of it but that eventually, the President will back up and nothing will change, like always. Talking about the President, I didn’t vote for him, nor for his opponent. Don’t get me wrong: I hate his guts. But I didn’t feel like voting: I haven’t been in France for a while, why would I influence my former country where I’m not even living there?
I though I could just take off my French skin and wear my Canadian one whenever I’d feel like it. I was wrong. I’m an onion now. I have two, three or four even, layers of skins on me, each with it’s own scars, each letting the other ones see through, each with its own memories and experiences. I can act French but think Canadian, I can make fun of both culture and call myself a citizen of the world. That’s the best part. The worse one is never knowing exactly where I belong, and the constant fear of not being good enough.
I will always be somewhat French, somewhat foreign, somewhat different. I shouldn’t care about it, should it?