Blog post

In quest for the truth of the soul somewhere in between

By Joanna K

Now that it is getting warmer, I tend to spend my weekends exploring the neighbourhood blogs. I would pay them a visit, read stories, hear thoughts and concerns expressed by neighbours, and get to know myself better.

Meeting Mr. Lee

I have been recently introduced to Mr. Lee, a teacher in Greece who is in quest for the truth of the soul through discussions with friends and students. He does his best on the one hand, to meet expectations others hold for him; on the other hand, to learn to see himself through his own eyes. Challenging!

As I was listening to what Mr. Lee had to say, I kept wondering: Do I introduce myself as a young woman living life between two cultures and two languages (of the Balkans) because that is how I see myself or how others see me? In other words, do I see myself through my own eyes or through the eyes of others?

Sharing concerns

True, I was raised bilingual. My childhood memories are made “here” and there.” True, that holds great significance for getting to know me and to know others. I’m not certain, however, whether it is my own choice or others’ choice, to view that as the dominant element of my existence.

The journey to self-awareness can be challenging. Especially when you are raised between different cultures and different languages, and you learn to see yourself through many various eyes. So when a new friend of mine asked me last year if I am “half and half” of origin, I took some time to respond. I needed time, to look for the answer within me.

This is the inner answer

the rose, symbol of hope, continuity, positivity

The answer we are looking for, to any of our questions, at any stage, lies within us

The answer within us

There are moments when it feels as if your inner self is divided into two parts, with one part belonging “here” and the other belonging “there.” It doesn’t matter where exactly. What matters is that each part bears its own history; its own wishes and anguish; its own needs and worry. The “here” part has been shaped in its own way. So has the “there” part. Somewhere in the middle, you aim to build a channel of communication between them.

You wonder whether you as well can acquire a sense of belonging to a group, big or small. After all, this is considered to be a basic human need for all. If your inner self as a whole isn’t embedded within the “here” or the “there” part, is it feasible to develop a full sense of belonging? Be confident that you will enjoy all and not half of the group privileges. Feel accepted even if those around you find it hard to fully understand you. Disagree openly and directly, resolve differences and carry on creating together. I like the word “creation”.

You realise that you may need to try a bit harder in order to get to know yourself well. There are two cultural identities as a whole doing their best to find a common language. In doing so, past experiences would surface calling for your attention. You would like to understand “where” they have been shaped and how they have influenced your path to knowledge. You wouldn’t judge or reject. You aim for balance.

For others to understand you

You know that if you wish for others to understand you, you need to understand them first. You would start by recognising the need behind the questions about your origin, here and there – true, there as well; by reminding yourself that differences rather than similarities attract attention more often. There will be times when differences are being regarded as unfamiliar by some; as something weird or fearsome.

Fear tends to manifest itself in different ways. You may feel sad with something you see. Sadness may grow deeper, and silence may feel like the only choice. Could this be a satisfactory choice? You think about it. Not when silence denotes fear. It may not be easy yet you can achieve more through discussion. You hear and you get heard.

Reaching a certain realisation

So what does it mean to be between two cultures? My understanding is that you learn to appreciate the parts that surround you, displaying understanding. You learn to actively listen to yourself and to others; to observe and to think a lot. You may feel fear and uncertainty. You may get stuck. You then make a choice and move forward. You don’t choose one part over the other. You choose the way you wish to lead your life. You choose to practise understanding embracing the challenges and joy of life. Somewhere in the middle, it becomes clear that choice means life.

So even if you haven’t learned to see yourself through your own eyes, even if you find it confusing to face the many various eyes of others, the choice to look for – learn – understand the truth is an act of life. The quest for the truth of the soul is an act of life. That is what I choose to believe.


Have a creative week!

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Comments (29)

  • Debra Roberts

    30 March 2019 at 05:08

    Two of my grandbabies are being raised multilingual, I think it is the coolest thing ever.

  • clio

    29 March 2019 at 20:46

    You looked within yourself so deeply.. it is beautiful. Regardless of how many cultures live within yourself, the true question : who I am ? Am I what others see, or what I believe about myself? Is being different normal? What is normal, anyways? Thank you for such inspiring thoughts

    1. Joanna K.

      30 March 2019 at 08:22

      Clio, thank you for your insightful comment.
      Yes, it boils down to “who I am.” And it is interesting how we may take the concept of ‘normal’ for granted, yet we may find it hard to define it.

  • Elease Colcord

    29 March 2019 at 18:17

    This is great. Although I wasn’t raised between two cultures, I do find myself feeling like I live between two worlds when I’m visiting with family or old friends!

    1. Joanna K.

      30 March 2019 at 09:16

      Elease, that is an interesting point. Hmm, we can’t be the person they used to know, in the past.

  • Nina N

    29 March 2019 at 16:21

    Although I am pretty shy in person, I have always had the confidence whenever it is my turn to speak. However, moving here in the United States and being bilingual had a toll on my confidence level. It is a struggle to fit in when your accent and the color of your skin is different. Sometimes, we seek for answers on how to act on certain situations just because we struggle to fit in. You couldn’t be more right that ‘the answer we are looking for, to any of our questions, at any stage, lies within us.’

    1. Joanna K.

      30 March 2019 at 08:13

      Nina, thank you for sharing your story and for being honest.
      That sounds true, that we would look for answers to what seems not to be developing as expected. I have an accent when speaking as well, and have just embraced it as a sign of diversity.

  • Elizabeth | Tired Mom Supermom

    28 March 2019 at 02:33

    Being raised with multiple cultures is a really positive thing! You can learn so much about human behaviour and become a really well-rounded person.

  • Megan McC

    28 March 2019 at 01:03

    You’re spot on about the connection of language to our culture and identify. Growing up and balancing between two languages and cultures creates lasting effects on ourselves. Embrace the chaos and find your own balance 🙂

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 22:27

      Megan, thank you for your insightful comment.
      Language is a means of interacting with others, sharing part of our truth and our identity.

  • Lyosha

    27 March 2019 at 23:42

    Different cultures are enriching. I think it is great to be raised in between of cultures you can absorb the best and be more open minded from the start.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 22:21

      Lyosha, thank you for your comment. And for reminding us that being exposed to different cultures can be a source of wealth.

  • Candace

    27 March 2019 at 20:54

    Embrace it! Being diverse and having exposure to multiple cultures is something to be proud of.

    1. Joanna K.

      29 March 2019 at 08:43

      Candace, thank you for your contribution to our discussion.

  • Melody Dunithan

    27 March 2019 at 18:39

    How we view ourselves and how others view us is something everyone deals with even if they don’t realize it. To understand what those views are can free us to really be ourselves. Thank you for your insights.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 22:18

      Melody, thank you for your comment. And for confirming that raising self-awareness can help us to “really be ourselves”

  • Luna S

    27 March 2019 at 15:34

    I can see the benefits and negatives of being raised in two different cultures. This was a neat article to read.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 09:10

      Luna, thank you for your beautiful comment. Good to hear this is a helpful article.

  • Subhashish Roy

    27 March 2019 at 13:41

    I personally feel being raised in two cultures is an unique opportunity to learn and have a broader perspective as we move on in life.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 09:07

      In fact, there are times when it feels like travelling to various different cultures, without leaving home.

    2. Erica (The Prepping Wife)

      29 March 2019 at 08:52

      I agree! It also gives a greater appreciation for all cultures and a respect for the differences. I think that’s something everyone should experience.

  • Jennifer McCormick

    27 March 2019 at 13:00

    You’ve summarized what I think everyone feels at some point in their lives, feeling torn between the ‘here’ and ‘there’, regardless if they are cross-cultural. We all share the need to discover our true self. It is through this discovery that we find we are all much more similar than first expected.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 09:03

      Jennifer, thank you for your beautiful words
      I like your concluding remark; how the journey to self-awareness and the true self can lead to the realisation that “we are all much more similar than first expected”

  • Ashley

    27 March 2019 at 12:23

    I’m Chinese by ethnicity but was born and raised in Canada. I moved to Scotland and married my husband, who is Polish, from Poland, so I can definitely relate in some ways to what you talked about! I think it’s definitely important to be open and receptive to all cultures, etc. that you’re exposed to.

    1. Joanna K.

      28 March 2019 at 09:00

      Ashley, thank you for your comment and for sharing your story.
      You sound like a truly multicultural family. I agree. Being raised multicultural can be a source of wealth, developing skills helpful to appreciate and respect what is considered different.

  • Lauren | My Favorite Job Title Is Mom

    26 March 2019 at 21:38

    It’s definitely a constant battle to know if we are portraying ourselves the way we want to be seen/see ourselves or the way others see us. I often fall into letting how others see me define who I am. This has benefits in that others saw me as successful when I didn’t see myself that way, and I eventually ended up reaching that success and seeing myself that way. However, it can also have a limiting effect because it makes me afraid to explore new sides of myself.

    1. Joanna K.

      27 March 2019 at 10:17

      Lauren, thank you for being open. And for confirming that we can choose and thus control the filters we see ourselves through.

  • Scott J DeNicola

    26 March 2019 at 20:22

    I would think it’s rewarding to be raised between two cultures however I could see the differences in those cultures creating issues. Always be true to yourself is the best advice I’ve ever received.

    1. Joanna K.

      27 March 2019 at 09:02

      Scott, thank you for your comment and for sharing good advice.

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