Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fitting In

A young friend of mine, who moved to Israel almost a year ago, is having trouble "fitting in" among other kibbutz members who have lived on the kibbutz since they were born. They view her as a outsider, an "other" as she calls it. She is young, pretty, blonde and from LA. "It will take time", friends tell her. She may never be truly accepted by some people on the kibbutz, especially those who have difficulty accepting those who are different from themselves.

I cannot say that I have ever experienced similar problems. I have always lived in my home country, always spoken the native language. And yet, her situation reminds me that "home" is where we feel the most comfortable, and that is not necessarily where we were born.

I am the oldest of a large Catholic family of six kids, raised on the East Coast, in southwestern Connecticut. And as much as I love my siblings and feel that we are quite close, in some ways, I have never quite fit in with the rest of them. My five siblings always seem at ease in the mainstream of the local community; I never did.

My siblings like playing tennis, and listening to popular music on the radio, and are happy going to the movies for entertainment. There is nothing wrong with those activities, I just always seemed to be just a little different. I am a terrible tennis player, a sport my step-mother encouraged as a family activity, and I have never warmed up to popular music.

In my younger adulthood, I enjoyed playing adult soccer; I like international folk dancing and listening to world music, all pursuits I learned to love in California. These things do not exist in the small towns of Connecticut, even today. I love going out and listening to live music performances. My favorite genre, bluegrass, cannot even be found on the radio stations in Connecticut. (I have checked, as recently as a year ago.)

So, what's the problem you might ask? You live in California. True. However, I have accepted the fact that I may have to move back east someday, if one of my siblings or my dad becomes ill. It is likely that I will have to re-establish myself somewhere close to east coast family members at some point.

While the landscape will be familiar, I know that it will not be easy to make new friends. People in California are more open and accepting, since just about everyone is from someplace else. It is harder to make friends on the East Coast, especially with people who have lived there all their lives and have enough friends, thank-you-very-much. Nothing personal, just not interested.

And so I dread the day I have to leave my beloved California, although I am quite sure that one day it will happen. I will have to leave Foggy Redwood Country, and my wonderful friends, and the great bay area cultural experiences....some day.

One day, that day will come.

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