Who Am I To Myself
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“Who am I?’” this is a question I often ask myself. To me I define my identity as what makes me different from others. I have often looked at someone who was in the same room as I and said I am no different from you. I attend classes, do my school work, eat, sleep, and speak like you do, yet something about me makes me different than you. Every single person has a unique identity that is shaped by their family, culture, and surrounding environments, therefor I should not be judged based on the pigmentation of my skin, nor should I be placed in a category of race because of the way I roll my tongue when I pronounce certain words. I should not be judged because my background stems from generations of hardworking men and women who view manual labor as a privilege.
My cultural background stems from Hispanic and Lebanese backgrounds, born in New York and raised in a multi-cultural household filled with two completely different races and cultural upbringings, I was raised to learn and admire both of my backgrounds while being taught how to be an American. Culture is an important element of self-identity and contributes to how Indvidual’s view themselves and the community they live in. I have become the person I am today because of my parents and the cultures and beliefs that I have observed. Both of my parents speak two different languages and follow different religious beliefs. My mother was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and my father in Tripoli, the capital of Libya.
My childhood was filled with being taught values from both cultures, I learned about the different food and traditions that both my parents were taught. My first language was Spanish, ‘Habichuelas con arroz’; in English, rice and beans. Something I learned about being Hispanic are the different traditional meals we prepare such as yucca, tostones, mofongo. Our food derives from countries such as Spain and Africa. Both my parents educated my siblings and I on the importance of our cultural heritages. This allowed us to understand where we come from, why we look the way we do, and why each person is different from one another. I was fortunate to have been able to learn both cultures, and I believe my identity is a sum of all that I have experienced and learned from my surroundings.
I have often struggled with my self-identity and have questioned myself numerous times asking myself “Who am I?’ and often have wondered if I am truly an American due to my upbringing of such non-American culture. In ‘Living in Limbo’, Isaac Polanco states that he has often felt that he is split between two cultural heritages. Polanco states “American? Dominican? What am I?” Like Isaac Polanco I have often felt torn between my cultural heritage and have struggled to find an answer to describe my identity. Polanco states “I do not belong in that land that raised all my childhood experience, nor can I call myself fully an American, even though American soil is responsible for the formation of my character”. Like Polanco I too believe that I do not fully belong to the land in which I was brought up knowing.
Though I was born and raised in American I still do not fully view myself as being American due to my upbringings, beliefs, and views adapted from my cultural background. Though I was born in America I have often felt strange living in a country where I was unsure about myself identity and have often questioned who I was. Though America is often described as the ‘Land of the Free’, I have often felt as if I was not welcomed in American society. Occasionally I will be asked the question, “Where are you from?” or “Where were you born?” I would always respond with the same answer “America”. Polanco states, “This is the land of opportunity, this is the land of freedom.” Like Polanco I have realized that though American culture, society and values may differ from mine, America has given me insights into the endless opportunities one can obtain. I am the product of my cultural heritages American Dream.
Growing up, I’ve always lived in a predominantly Hispanic and Black neighborhood. I never understood what made my neighbors different than I until I was taught about their cultural heritages. I began to realize that we belonged to different backgrounds because we looked different, ate different foods, and spoke different languages. Polanco noted, “I have learned to value places for the experiences they give me. I’ve learned to be grateful for those experiences that made me who I am.” Like Polanco though I have often felt confused as to which culture I belong too, I have realized that America is filled with people of many different cultures and I have learned to learn, experience, and value cultures other than my own.
The way in which I was raised, both as an American citizen, and a descendant of both Hispanic and Lebanese heritage has affected me in both positive and negative ways. My cultural heritage has reflected in meals, literature, religion, music, and much more. Being born and raised in American and still being able to identify with my cultural heritage has allowed me to learn and appreciate American values, while still being able to coincide with values from my cultural heritage. After a long while of contemplating about myself identity and what it means to be an American, I have concluded. I am in fact an American. Though my values, beliefs, and traditions may be different from the American culture, I am prideful to live with the American customs alongside my Hispanic and Lebanese customs.