Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Concepts of “Home”

6 Comments

Libby posted some thoughts on integrating into mainstream culture after you left fundamentalist culture. Some of the things she said made me think – she compared living in the mainstream American society to moving to a different country. I think that’s a great way to explain how we all feel to outsiders. But I want to add some more thoughts from the perspective of someone who actually went to live outside US culture altogether.

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There are many people around here who have asked me if I’m homesick sometimes. It’s a puzzling question for me – am I homesick?

Some people ask me if I want to go back “live in America” some day – and what I miss about “America”.

Some people ask me if I miss “the American Way of Life”.

Yes, I have to use quotation marks. Because my answer would have to be NO. Not at all. People often assume that it’s because I enjoy the “free stuff” around here so much – a typical stereotype here is that most lower class Americans have no health insurance and higher education because they can’t pay for it. They assume that I’m from one of those families (which I am) and that I’m a sort of “health insurance refugee”. I let them think that because the truth is so much more complicated.

When I think of “America”, I think the things Europeans tend to think. I think of LA and California, Las Vegas and New York, I think of millions of lights and yellow cabs and Elvis and Rap and lots of drunk teens, rich stars and some real poor ghettos, of 9/11 and war and Barack Obama.

The place I lived, the way I lived, that’s far, far away from America. The mainstream America is as strange to me as if I never lived there. All I know about it is the fundamentalist way of looking at it. America scares me – it’s a strange country. It’s a nation I have little in common with, except my language and my passport. If America called me tomorrow and asked me to give my citizenship back, I’d agree – not because I don’t want it, but because I would understand why they wouldn’t want me.

So no, I am not homesick for America.

And then there are others who ask me if I feel “home” here. And again, that’s a complicated thing.

Yes, I do, as much as an immigrant can feel at home. Because that’s just what I am. I share no common “memory” with people my age – school, TV shows, experiences, nothing. I’m a stranger to this culture, not as much as I used to be, but still.

I got used to doing things the German way – being right on time (not a minute later!), accepting the perceived “rudeness” of people (which, in reality, is just painful honesty most of the time), dealing with relationships of all sorts, work ethic, political views, and so on.

Yes, most Germans find me to be very “integrated”. I’m good at pretending.

But there’s still something – this longing that  can’t explain – this feeling that this isn’t quite my “home”, this feeling that I’m not part of everything.

This town is very popular with tourists. We had many Americans coming through and I tend to avoid them. They give me a strange feeling. I always recognize them instantly, they don’t even have to talk. The way they look, dress. I can tell they’re American. And when they speak, even when I’m prepared for it, still makes my heart jump. It sounds a bit like “home”. On one hand I’m drawn to them – I want to be close and listen and just… hear them speak English. On the other hand I’m afraid they’d talk to me, that they’d be able to tell that I’m not as American as they are.

Always being the one who’s a bit different.

Belonging but not quite, everywhere.

Is there a home for someone who doesn’t belong anywhere?

Is there a place for somebody who has different roots, no matter where they go?

What is home, when your home is a place that doesn’t exist in reality? When your home used to be a palace in the sky, built by religious fundamentalists? Is there a home for those of us who willingly tore it down to be free? Or aren’t we just what we are, what we’ll always be, displaced people trying to grow a second pair of roots, after the first pair dissolved into nothing but thin air?

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6 thoughts on “Concepts of “Home”

  1. America also has different regions so you can have just as much culture shock moving from LA to the Midwest as you would have moving to another country. Having gone from Silicon Valley to a hippie town for college, then to the Midwest for 4 years, then to the Mountain West for 4 1/2 years, then to southern California for a year, and back to northern California, I’ve probably lived in more cultures in the last ten years than most people experience in a lifetime. There are linguistic variations from one region to another and people could tell that I wasn’t “from there” the second I opened my mouth.

  2. Lisa,
    Your writing is so thoughtful and heartfelt. You seemed to grow up a stranger in your own country. I understand so very well why you don’t miss what you never belonged to.
    I have lived in America all but 5 0f my 68 yea.rs but I don’t like what I see in America now.
    Keep writing, you do it so well.

  3. jen and Gigi said exactly what I intended to say. My part of the US is completely different from other parts. The US is a large group of cultures and sub-cultures and most of the time the sub-cultures are the most important. They also vary from county to county, small town to small town and sometimes from one side of town to the other.

    You’ve stated what many people who grow up overseas with US passports vocalize. They don’t belong to the country they grew up in and yet they don’t belong in the country of their passport either. You are not alone. There are hundreds of missionary and government and international corporate employee kids who feel the same way you do.

  4. Pingback: “Biblical” Parenting, Criticism #4: A Parent Who Isolates in Order to Control

  5. I’m a third-culture kid myself, both MK and quiverfull, and yes I would say you are probably feeling that same thing all third-culture kids deal with. I think many QF families do basically live in another country. It definitely sucks at times. Other times, you start talking to another TCK and it is totally bizarre how instantly you understand each other. :-)

  6. Pingback: “Biblical” Parenting, Part Five: A Parent Who Isolates In Order to Control | H . A

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