“Specialized in foreign & domestic” – this sign for Joe’s Auto Repair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is what first sparked the idea for this blog post in my mind.
“Am I foreign or domestic?”, I thought.
What defines me to be foreign or domestic? Is it because I wasn’t born here the reason I’m foreign, or is it reason enough to be domestic that Brooklyn was/is the first place I felt I belonged to?
But are my reasons enough to define me amidst the million definitions of the world? If not nationality, there is religion, and race, and gender of course! (I haven’t even started listing out the psychographic subcultures.)
The country I live in today, I’m most definitely foreign and made to feel so in every piece of news and/or administrative process. But I’m also deeply domesticated by Brooklyn to the extent that every time I see the new Starbucks opened on the corner of Lafayette and Grand I cringe in disbelief. And it’s perhaps because my heart is Brooklyn I feel domestic – because this is the very place that has stripped me of every inauthentic layer of skin that masked me, until I has nothing but the naked reality of who I am and want to be to face, embrace, and that I have now come to adorn. New York will forever hold a special place in my heart, my life, where it all truly began.
I think of my own country, India, where I had always felt like misfit – be it because of the people around me, or our differences in our outlook toward life. Being away from it made me realize why I had never fit in, something that I was reminded of today as I wanted this VICE documentary. As much as I’ve come to appreciate and understand Indian culture, which is so many ways makes me feel so innately proud to be Indian, the other side of this cultural divide politicized by religion makes me feel equally foreign to my own country’s ideology.
I was never religious to begin with (I’ve always had my own sense of spirituality) – but if I had to face the truth that has been dividing my country for decades altogether, I wouldn’t have a side to pick. And it’s because I don’t endorse Hindus, or shun Muslims, it is probably reason enough for my majority of my country to shut me, if I choose to vocalize this against them.
So that brings me full circle to the thought that I started out with – Am I foreign, or domestic? Why can I not simply be human?
Where do human like me go? Where do they belong? It’s an overwhelmingly scary thought, one which probably has no answer. Or maybe there answer simply is – we belong together.
Cheering on the New York City Marathon runners today overwhelmed me in a way that I would be glad to feel every single day. People of all ages and races, cultures and subcultures, foreigners and domestics alike – all running to the same finish line –together. And more people of all ages and races, cultures and subcultures, foreigners and domestics alike – cheering on these runners, whole-heartedly, and loudly, and positively – together. And that’s what we need more of – making positivity louder – irrespective of all foreign and domestic divides, simply for humanity, simply together.
I’ve found my life’s purpose in the humanness of life – of human behavior, human connection, and anything humanitarian. I see no nationality, or race, or religion, and I belong to more than a many psychographic subcultures. I find home in Brooklyn, my roots are in India, but most importantly, my heart is in many places around the entire world!
I don’t want to be defined by what makes me foreign or domestic because I refuse to define the world with this lens on my vision.
People usually give labels and definitions because it gives them comfort of the known. As for me, and the so many others like me, I find comfort in curiosity, and life in the unknown.
I hope someday the world embraces the power of the unknown in the acceptance of it and everything that comes with it, and that someday “foreign” is simply a word that evokes curiosity, and “domestic”, one that prompts a known story to be told. Until then…my story I’ll keep sharing.