Shaken about the globe, we live out our fractured lives. Enticed or fleeing, we re-form ourselves, taking on partially the coloration of our new backgrounds. Even our tongues are alienated and rejoined - a multiplicity that creates richness and confusion.
Vikram Seth, Two Lives, Chapter 4.7
Three sentences that capture the very essence of what it means to shift your life from the country of your birth to one far away; that feeling of being at once both at home and a stranger. The way you can live there for twenty years and still remain in some ways apart, yet when you return home you find you have yourself become foreign and long for the familiarity of your adopted home. These feelings are not linear, they bend forwards and backwards, curving over and through themselves from day to day, year to year, moment to moment.
I have lived in this country not of my birth but of my choosing for my entire adult life. While in many ways I still feel very American, it would perhaps be more correct to say that I am in fact Anglo-Israeli, that peculiar breed of Israeli raised in an English-speaking country, neither fish nor fowl. Someone who craves the veneer of polite civility found in the United States while at the same time belittling its hollow ring. Someone who craves the variety of opportunities available there, but knowing of the sacrifices they would require and unwilling to make them.
While I have to admit to myself that I'd like to enjoy some of the material advantages that come with living in the States, there is so much I'd have to give up. As strange as it may sound to those of you who don't live here I feel safe in my daily life, far from the frightening and often sensationalized headlines which clog international news media. I don't worry about someone kidnapping my child, or carjackings, or muggings. I don't have the constant clanging of Amber alerts to ensure that fear carves a permanent groove into my psyche. Children here still enjoy a level of independence which has all but disappeared from American cities and towns. My son has already asked why he will be given less freedom when we visit the United States in August, and I found myself casting about for answers that would not unduly frighten him while still trying to impress upon him the need for vigilance and caution.
My language too has changed. I am and will always be a native English speaker, most at ease in my mother tongue, but now that tongue is peppered with strange sounding foreign words which often leap from its tip almost of their own volition. Some concepts are easily explained in one language while in the other the words fail, with the odd result of leaving me strangely tongue-tied in two languages.
There is no question, my core is and will always be American, it is who I am and the value system that created me, but after twenty years - all of my adult life - in this strange and wonderful land, there is another layer - a layer almost as deep, whose roots bury deeper and deeper with each passing year.
I am living this multiplicity. I cannot be one without the other. I do not want to. The whole is infinitely greater than the two halves, and even more deeply rooted. It is who I am.