I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like an alien.
When I was a little girl, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little Canadian girl growing up in a Mexican village, I ate as much spicy food as possible to prove I was at least equal to my Mexican counterparts.
Then, when I was a high school graduate that looked and spoke just like everyone else in the U.S., I scandalized the church I was attending that summer by kneeling in prayer meeting—a regular occurrence in Mexico, but considered immodest in my new place of residence.
There was also the time I was attending a Mexican university, and a schoolmate informed me that overcharging me for a product because I was white, wasn’t racist; it was just smart.
Not belonging for me was a lifestyle. Certainly not one I had chosen, but by the time I was well into my teens, one I had acknowledged as mine.
As a third culture kid, I tried on many identities. Like most of my MK friends, I went through a “proud Canadian” phase, through a phase of “I’m from all of North America” and a “nothing but Mexican” phase. None of them worked. I found I could relate to people from all of these places, but none of them — not even family — could relate to all of me.
And that made me alien.
Last year, I flew into my closest airport and an immigration official made me change lines because, “You’re not a citizen.” I explained to him that as a resident, my documentation allowed me to be in the citizen’s line, and that I had done it in the two largest cities of the country. He gave me double talk about the larger airports allowing for different things and still made me change to the foreigners line. I just about cried.
Being an alien is still something I struggle with. At 27, I think I’ve sorted out who to be what with. What I mean is that I know what parts of me I can show to the different people in my life—most of the time. I can usually make people around me comfortable by only showing the parts of me that they relate to. It’s less hurtful for me, and it makes our relationship easier for them. It seems to work.
And then something like this happens. A few months ago, a girl I work closely with told an old (Mexican) friend of mine who was visiting that she often didn’t understand my questions.
I’m different. I can’t avoid it.
And I wonder if allowing parts of me to go unseen is healthy. Maybe compartmentalizing my different and sometimes conflicting habits, convictions and personality traits is the wrong way to cope. So, I try to open up and am promptly hurt by a harsh reaction from someone who has no idea they’re being harsh. It’s just that they don’t understand.
I still haven’t figured out how to deal with being an alien—how to deal with always having some part of me that isn’t understood.
But perhaps that’s ok. Maybe it’s just fine that most of my friends aren’t familiar with all of me because that leads to two things:
First, it means that I can understand a little of what the Lord went through as an alien on this Earth, misunderstood, judged and taken for something he was not.
Second, it means that when I meet a community like this, a group of people that don’t belong either, it’s the most refreshing thing in the world!
So, now that we’re friends, how have you coped with being an alien?