*Originally published on ThreeThoughtsOn.com.
When I was eight years old living in Borneo, Malaysia, I used to declare that I would someday live overseas. I would hoard storybooks about people having tea time in England or bushfire tales in Kenya and devour these stories late into the night. Now, I write to you from a hidden gem in New York City, where this is my eighth move in the last six years, lived in South East Asia, Middle East, North America, done developmental projects in Africa and travelled to over 25 countries.
Being a global citizen, I’ve spent the last few years trying to understand what this means: being stumped every time someone asks me where home is, feeling strangely at home at airports and have yet to obtain a valid form of identification that I can proudly flash at bouncers without explaining my life’s story. Only recently, I have begun to fashion, perhaps lovingly, perhaps reluctantly, perhaps nostalgically, a definition of ‘global citizen’ that is uniquely my own on Home, Identity, and Culture.
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” - Robert Frost
Most people piously follow a traditional definition and association of home: family and childhood. I’ve known for a long time that this isn’t so. And sometimes home isn’t where the heart it. Home is where people understand you, where you build your love and dreams. Home is where you grow wanting to leave, and eventually yearning to go back. Every day is a journey for me, and this journey is home.
“If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” - Chuck Palahniuk
In this struggle to strike balance, knowing when to stay true to my Chinese-‐Malaysian roots, when to adopt a new path, I constantly ask myself the fundamental questions of who I was, who I am and who I am becoming. I believe that we build our identity by the decisions we make, by the principles we stand up for and unexplored choices we have in front of us. When I moved from Oman to Canada, the difference in culture was alarming; from the freedom in speech to ideas of fun. All I could do is constantly emulate the values I hold true to myself, while beginning a tentative foray into a new culture. In my recent move to New York, I find myself returning to those same values: lifelong learning, authentic connections and generosity, and I know that this is at the core of who I am no matter what country I am in.
“The key to success is for you to make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear.” - Vincent Van Gogh
When I moved to Vancouver six years ago, I arrived at the international terminal with two luggages, knew no one in the country and had a huge ball of fear in my chest. I was fearful of letting go of my old life. I feared that I would not make friends. I feared failing. Now, having moved multiple times, I’m here to tell you to fear outrageously, fail courageously and create connections unconditionally. I constantly ask myself: What is the worst that can happen?
So as time bumbles along, does an individual become more risk averse, clinging on firmly to what is familiar, or do you seek to expand the world as you know it? As my current journey unfolds, I am drunk with the pursuit of learning, immersing myself in old interests and reaffirming fears that I form healthy opinions on.
So world, here I come! I guess the next thing to do is finally get my [insert country I’m currently living in] driver’s license.
Your resident global citizen,
Chinese sourced. Malaysian made and cultivated (Miri, Borneo!). Omani improved. Exported to Canada. And now, distributed in the United States (New York).