Throughout our lives, there is a myriad of events that either pass by unnoticed or leave a mark for years to come. The first category is simple – it doesn’t require any additional analysis and doesn’t cause any follow-up reactions; the second category, however, carries a different meaning. Its nature is more complex, meaningful, sentimental, and deep. When considering such second category, the first thing that comes to mind is moving to another country. The overall process itself seems pretty straight-forward: you pack your things, get on the plane, get to the new place, move in, make it a home for yourself and your family. What accompanies this simple course of events, though, is a more complex, complicated process – the process of adjustment. Specifically, when it comes to finding out a balance between how to handle the clash of culture, mentalities, beliefs and values.
I remember on my initial stages in the new country I put in a lot of effort into trying to blend in, trying to become as more ‘americanized’ as possible; I wanted to belong to this new world and be a part of this new ‘whole’. After seven years of having lived here, I can say that I do belong – I feel comfortable in this country, I like its values, I appreciate its opportunities and I strive to contribute as much as I can to the environment and people around me. I believe in my case, all this adjustment process turned out so successfully because the first few years I became completely assimilated with my new environment. For over five years I could not let myself to “go back to my roots”, I wouldn’t allow myself to engage in any activities that involved any resemblance of how it used to be; I excluded Russian music, movies and books, only focusing on the language I was trying to grasp.
Throughout all that process, I couldn’t admit that I was terribly missing every elements of my home country, as I knew that any little derailment from my determination to adjust would be a great trigger for sadness, extreme nostalgia and doubts in the choice that was made somewhat blindly. No, I could not let that happen. I was stronger than that. I blocked all such feelings and kept moving forward, achieving my goals along the way and getting closer and closer to my dreams. Whether I did it the right way or the wrong way, I cannot tell – I guess we all have our ways and methods of dealing with certain things. What I can tell though is that I think it worked for me, and seven years later, I did not become immune and ignorant to my native culture, but on the contrary I became more appreciative and grateful for it. Now, I rarely think twice before putting on a Russian CD or watching a Russian movie. I still put away reading Russian books, as I think my English is not perfect enough yet and needs more work, but I’m sure that is not for long more either.
Now the majority of hardships are caused by the question of how much is too much or is it ever too much? Now that I am generally in peace with combining the two cultures (which are actually very similar), I can’t help but wonder: Is it time to let go and obtain all new traditions (especially when it comes to holiday and family events) or have we let go of so much that it's time to pick at least a few things to hold on to? This question usually becomes especially astute around the holidays. It is always a debate of whether the choice should end up with spending the holidays in a circle of newly-gained (and wonderful) friends with new traditions or in a circle of tried-and-true (and amazingly supportive) family with a hint of our home culture. As of now, I chose the latter, because no matter where we are and no matter how much time passes we have to remember who we are and where we come from and carry these memories throughout our lives passing them on from generation to generation. In all this rush to adapt and adjust, in all this craziness to blend in and belong, I realized that it is so easy to lose what’s truly important – our identity.
I’m glad that I am finishing up this year with this newly gained confidence and realization of who I am.