How do you define yourself?
What you think you know, is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more in you that can’t be seen or sensed, but it’s there. Underneath your skin, in between the words of your language, in the gaps of your house and all around the people you love. Something like dark matter, which counts for about 85% of the mass of the universe and interacts with gravity and something called the weak force. (I shall contain the star wars fan in me and will spare you the details of how philosophical I get when pondering about this).
I came to Chile, my birth country, identifying as a Chilean Belgian. Someone that takes risks to make dreams come true, an adventurer and lover of the wild and free. I lived in Belgium my entire life, but was very rarely considered Belgian by Belgians. So, good girl like I am, I listened and agreed. OK, I’m a migrant, I’m Chilean and I will ‘go back to my country’ like I had been told to on a few occasions by authentic Belgians.
1,5 year later, while in ‘my country’ Chile, I’m literally dreaming of pistolets and waking up in sweat saying ‘I want to go home!’ feeling homesick for the cold, wet and grey cobble stoned streets of Antwerp, I used to find so boring.
A pistolet is a Belgian type of bread, in Chile there are different types of bread like marraquetas, pan amasado, … but most of them are white and soft. We love our crunchy bread, so we have been making Italian ciabatta’s and toasting what else we could find here in the small Patagonian village of La Junta, where every bakery makes the same type of soft, white bread. Pistolets were readily available, warm and crunchy. I hadn’t missed them, nor thought about them, since I can recall, until a few nights ago.
After these pistolet dreams I had to process my identity, how can an adventurous Chilean person dream of pistolets? Should I not be dreaming about rafting down wild rivers or eating seafood by the kilos? What is happening to me? My English man freaked out too. The English use a lot of F-words when they freak out, image our morning-after-pistolet-dreaming-and-waking-up-in-sweat-shouting-I-want-to-go-home conversation like this. WTF baby?! How can you F wake up F missing F pistolets and everything we F just left? You have to F choose where you want to be baby.
It takes some time to process doubts, feelings and freaked out conversations, but then this week the Dutch elections happened, that among others sparked a discussion in Belgium and the Netherlands about double nationalities. People (obviously those with only one nationality) say it’s not fair and it’s only for people who want to abuse the benefits of having two nationalities. They want to change the law to force people to choose which nationality to have.
This last year and a half in Chile has soothed my soul and strengthened my bones. I had been damaged too much in the last decade in Belgium. I lived through a lightning strike, then worked myself into a burnout that left my blood pressure and heart damaged beyond my years. Being in a society that was becoming ever more bitter and xenophobic, feeling drenched and sick, I cried rivers of tears for years, more than my loved ones deserved to bear. We came to Chile and the tears stopped. The heart has been happy, the soul has been free, but now, it calls out for what I did not know it needed too: Antwerpian things, Antwerpian people, Antwerpian places.
I look Chilean and Chilean blood runs through my veins, in short, my body is Chilean. In Belgium, among Belgian looking people, I identified as a Chilean.
Now in Chile, I know in my Chilean bones that I’m Belgian too.
My nationalities are fluid.
More than Belgian, I am Antwerpian.
More than Chilean, I am my Chilean parents daughter.
Tell me, how can I choose one nationality?
Tell me, what is my identity?
In these times I feel sorry for my daughter. Born in Belgium to a Chilean/Belgian mother and an English father, she has ties and feels deep love for three countries. Where do people like my daughter fit? She prefers living in Chile, her main language is Dutch, but will speak English rather than Spanish and she identifies as a Belgian person.
The future is multicultural and multinational, because identities are not the same as nationalities. Like love, identities are fluid, they can be endless.
Like love, there are no boundaries to your identity and like love, it can surprise you with deeply buried feelings that pop out and force you to rethink everything you thought you knew.
If I’m forced to choose one nationality I will answer: I’m a human being and I will stand up for the right to love any place on the planet, to speak in whichever language, to take knowledge of whatever culture, for I love humans and my love for humanity is without borders.
Make me choose one nationality, but it won’t stop me from having a multinational identity. Make me choose one country to live in, but It won’t stop me from having multiple homes in the world.
If I’m forced to choose one identity, I would answer:
My roots are grounded in Belgium, my branches flourish in Chile and the juice in my veins sings in English. Where I live, or what country is stated in my passport depends on dark matters, as I too get pulled by gravity and weak forces, but instead of choosing less, I will always stay open to more of the world.
Love, Andrea x