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16 mar201916

A short story of identity

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
It's bloody right when people say travelling teaches us things we might never learn otherwise; it's true that it opens our minds and heart; it's true it helps us destory walls and prejudices quicker than melting icecaps in Antarctica. 

I spent exactly 33.38% of my life in the UK, 60% in Poland, and the remaining few percent in many different countries. When crossing borders and mixing languages one tends to realise that barriers we are all taught to recognise are disappearing. Suddenly it is not about where you were born, what language you speak, where your parents are from, or any kind of physical characteristic. Everything becomes much simpler. It comes down to the unspoken, unknown, and unexplainable energy between two peole that either puts somebody in your universe or not. 

Just like with my veganism I keep thinking how could I ever think differently? Having living for 19 years in a very close-minded, pseudo-catholic, prejudiced country made me subconsciously scared of what was out there. Thankfully the next ten years in the UK would destroy the prejudices I had about so many things. Mostly because all you need is meet people you think are different get to know them, and realise they're just as crazy as you. 

For the past few months I have been observing the situation in Poland. The rise of people who think they're better because of the country they were born in, colour of the skin, or their religion. Sounds familiar? If you paid even a little bit of attention in your history class at school I'm sure you know what country and decade comes to mind. Everybody ask me with an unbelievable amount of surprise in their voice why, of all countries, something like that happened in Poland. 

Three words: media, politicians, and religions. Three biggest manipulators in the history of "civilised" human kind. Don't worry, I'm not going to start a political debate here. I don't get involved in those things. I don't need them in my life as I can live a good life by simple truths that I was taught by my parents but also those that I was taught by the world itself. 

Anyway, all those events, including the latest one in New Zealand made me think about my identity. 

I don't consider Polish my first language anymore. There's a reason why this website is in English. In my 10 years of programming for Lemon-Art I think I've never programmed in Polish. I think in English, I write in English, I even have my staff meetings with myself in English. 

When I was in South America, first question I always got from other expats was "Where are you from?". Honestly it was the most difficult question ever. I haven't lived in Poland for 12 years but at the same time I wasn't a British citizen on paper. Most of the time my answer would involve more than 2 sentences, in comparison to other people's one-word answer.

So what defines your identity? Let's break it down to things that are commonly used to refer to our identity:

1. Place of birth
2. Physical characteristics
3. Passport you hold
4. Language(s) you speak
5. Place where you live

Now consider how many of those things are actually up to you. Yes, you can start learning languages when you're young but that's about it. Isn't it completely bizarre that our identity is defined by, well, a simple coincidence?

I remember the first few years in the UK were difficult for some people. My English was already at a quite good level but there were many people who came from Eastern Europe without any language skills; they simply wanted a little bit better life for their famillies. Those people met, quite often, with unpleasantries from the native population. I never did. The difference? Only language. But even when somebody knew a little bit of language then people have to turn into other things like how many hours they work, with whom they spend most of their time, and other silly reasons. 

Why do you think we have countries? Obviously our little world is too big for one person or even one government to rule it but also it is, unfortunately, human's desire to split and seek uniqueness. Congregate with like-minded people and seek autonomy from others. It's easier to keep people in the system that way, it's easier to manipulate us. Many people focus on hate so much they forget that people can't choose whether they're born poor or not. The desire to have a life with dignity and provide for a family is, however, an essence, and one is ready to even strip themselves from that dignity. I could never understand why people don't take a step back and think before they say and judge other people who emigrate from their countries to seek better life. They assume it's so easy, that it's just a money-grabbing scheme. Nobody thinks about leaving family, friends, things you're used to, and your routines behind.

In the light of recent rise in anti-semitic and racist events in Poland I realised the word "patriot", so often used by people who cause the distrubance, has become completely meaningless to me. They keep saying "god, honour, homeland" - and when I see it my eyes hurt a lot from all the rolling I have to do (or occasionally I sprain a neck muscle from all the head movements). Why doesn't being patriotic mean that you stand for the values your forefathers fought for. The welcoming and peaceful country that other nations tried to wipe out so many times. My patriotism is not to a administrative unit that was created by governments. It's to the people of the world, to the planet, to all living things. To spread peace and love rather than hate and racism. It is so simple that people prefer not to see it because of the universal misconception that simple means boring or wrong.

Not many people know but every time I listen to bagpipes my body gets shivers, goosebumps, and I am almost crying. I think I must have been a Scot in at least few of my previous lives. At the same time I never felt more like myself when I was in Peru in Colombia; the lifestyle, the importance of music and dance, the simplicity of life - those things resonated with me more than anything else.  

There's one thing that's stuck in my head. I was in El Porvenir and a group of new people arrived. Amongst them Annie & Martin with their three kids who arrived on a boat from Canada. I was on a bedrest, you might say, as I couldn't walk, but once I was mobile again I got to know them and their story. Their kids would accompany the to the classes and the most amazing thing happen. Betsy didn't speak much Spanish but somehow she became almost instant friends with a Honduran girl. A lightning struck my brain - when do we lose this ability to connect with people on such level that we don't even need to speak the same language. I realised I still had a bit of it in me. I couldn't speak Spanish at that time but somehow I managed to comatmunicate with the kids, some didn't like me, some did. That is when I decided to hold on to that side of me. My inner-child, inner-optimist, and the magic that lives in us but sometimes we forget about it because money, politics, religion, cloud our lives, our judgement, and what really is important: people, here, and now.
 
So who am I?

Simple answer is none of the above. Just like anything else those things are labels to make us compliant to the current system. They're the same as any other label. If I label myself a patient person, does it mean I am not allowed to get impatient from time to time? People lose themselves in the pursuit of uniqueness because they're looking for it in wrong places. In the end we are all unique, just not in a way that I am 6'2", caucasian male born in Poland in 1987 who doesn't have a college degree and speaks three languages. None of those things are important. My uniqueness comes from the characteristics of my soul and that takes time to find out. Not only by other people but also by myself.

In the next few months I'm hoping to apply for British Citizenship again but it doesn't mean that I will call myself British. I certainly do like learning the language, visiting Durham, Scotland, or York, we even have vegan sausage rolls from Greggs after all these years but it won't define me. 

I have to say that one of the greatest things I learn to appreciate in the last two years is the lack of need of being defined in any way. Yes I am a vegan, passionate dancer, hopelessly in love with classic pictures, very fond of Valencia, and many more things but those are as inifinite as the universe we live in. It's impossible to list them all, in order to truly define one person's uniqueness. 

Ahh it was great to get it off my chest. There are so many terrible things happening all over the world lately, all in the name of religion or misplaced prejudices, mostly by people who are bored or frustrated with their own lives, looking to place a blame on anybody, and then you get churches and politicians spreading fake news just to stay in power. How sad has this world become?! No wonder I preferred to stay in the hills of Guatapé and live outside of the system. More and more people do that and it doesn't surprise me.

Eventually I will either end up in the middle of nowhere in some remote forest, an island, in the mountains, or under water - just to not suffer the consequences of being in so called society. I realised I prefer to be the outsider, the gringo, the immigrant, rather than be ashamed of what I used to call "my country". Now I don't have a country, I have a world and a home. And my home is always with me, I take it wherever I go and whatever the weather...
 
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