So September has been and gone, as has the September edition of Stories at the Storey. For those of you who have no idea what Stories at the Storey is, it’s a local storytelling event held monthly in Lancaster. We get together and share stories that all connect loosely through a theme. The theme for September was Identity and this is my story on identity.
Growing up I always struggled with my identity. I was always the different child compared with my classmates. They were short, petite, blonde and like to play skipping games. Whilst I was bigger, ginger and collected bruises, scabs and sprained joints. I was also different in that I wasn’t born in the country like everyone else. I was born in Germany. I’ve identified as being half German or half English or as my mum puts it ‘as a Heinz baked bean as we are 57 varieties in one family.’
As a child, the fact I identified as different to everyone else caused tension. At the tender age of six during a family tree project, I was told I couldn’t be from a different country as I had the same accent as everyone else. As I hung onto my teacher’s every word I believed her and hung onto her reasoning that I couldn’t have been born in Germany as my younger brother, born 11 months later, was born at the local hospital. The fact we have the ability to move seemed to allude her.
From that point on my shattered idea of my own identity became something my classmates used to torment me with. I became lost, as I got older and older it became clear that I didn’t fit into this limbo of cultural identity nor did I fit into a solidly British or German identity. I don’t like tea or hotpot, or weissbier or sauerkraut, things that in my head I saw as key elements of making someone a certain identity. However after seeing my completely German mother turn her nose up at sauerkraut, I now realise that national food preference doesn’t make you a certain identity.
Now I am older and supposedly wiser, I am no clearer on what my national identity is. I’ve acquired additional identities that I connect with much better like writer, cousin, honourary aunt and these label me near enough perfectly. German, English, Germlish and Engman – if you will entertain such combined labels – don’t really explain who or what I am.
When I sat down to write about identity, I asked my mum what she thought mine was, she responded with a simple ‘I don’t know’. So I proceeded to ask her what her identity is and gave her examples of identities she holds such as mother, parent and sister. After a moment of thought, she turns to me and smiles.
‘Me’ because mother, parent and sister are just part of her identity that make up the bigger picture of her whole identity.
Maybe that has been my problem this whole time. I am just looking at a small cross section of my identity. I’m not just German or English or a sister or a daughter. My identity is me. Me covers all of the bases and no one can try and snatch that from me and tell me it is wrong or that I can’t identify as me as no one can be me bar myself.