I’m a place person. Maybe you are too. I’m also an Island person with Irish traits. I’m a Celt but not in the same way as a Scottish or Welsh Celt. There is no place more special to me than my own home, Northern Ireland. I was asked to do a BBC radio interview called, “This Place,” many years ago, before I recognized I was a place person. The place was Stormont Castle and the surrounding grounds in east Belfast.
Some folks might wonder why I spent so much time out of Northern Ireland if it’s such a special place to me. That’s a good question. I’ve spent almost twenty years in North America beginning in 1986, and I’ve been a US/UK dual citizen for 18 years. In short, a civil war was occurring in Northern Ireland in my early twenties when I left, and North America had a lot more positive energy for a young adult with her whole life ahead of her. Also, who knows, if I’d stayed in Northern Ireland, I might not have survived the violence.
When we switch our deepest place of belonging, intentionally or unintentionally, for another less familiar or comforting place, many things can get lost in translation. Our sense of place, home and identity is shaken. There’s also an emotional ripping apart for a migrant person that is not experienced when we are in cosmopolitan International traveler mode. The two are distinct. Living in another country long term, and being stretched in the area of home, belonging, place and identity utilizes much more resources and requires much more risk and creativity.
I’ve regained a part of my identity and sense of belonging in the past seven days in Ireland. How ? In seven whole days, I’ve not had to answer these recurring
Are you Irish ? Is that an Irish accent?
In the States I might be asked this question seven times a day, every day. Multiply that by 20 years and you may get my drift of how that might make a person feel like screaming. In my head when people would ask me this question, I’d say to myself, ”for goodness sake, do they think I’m not aware of how I talk? Do I really need to be reminded that I’m from Ireland or that I have an Irish accent?”
Over the years I came to accept that it was a genuine way for Americans to connect with me. It wasn’t a particularly good way for me and I still don’t like it but I learned to accept that part of them. I think it challenged my insecurities around my own sense of belonging and identity, and it actually made me feel as though I didn’t belong in the American place. But the most interesting and redeeming part of this story is that God has used Americans and that question to actually point me back to the place where I do feel a deeper sense of belonging.
Thank you for indirectly and inquisitively helping me to regain my sense of place. And with that said I’m not giving up US citizenship anytime soon !!