I recently gave a talk at the Chekhov Cultural Center here in Moscow, as part of English Language Evenings (thanks so much to the organizer, Stephen Lapeyrose, and all of the wonderful people who attended), and before the talk, I had to clarify something on my resume. I had to explain that a certain job meant work experience in two cities simultaneously – “the magazine was produced in Amman,” I said, “but it was meant for the market in Dubai. I’d just moved from Dubai and was working on it in Amman.”
During the question-and-answer portion of my talk, someone asked me which language I speak better, English or Russian. I said that I speak English better – though I’ve been catching up on my Russian since moving to Moscow, and eventually hope for my knowledge in both languages to be pretty much even.
The dreaded “who are you?” question was, thankfully, not asked. I identify as lots of things, after all. Sometimes, it confuses people. It even irritates them. They think my Whitman-esque desire to “contain multitudes” is a sign of “disloyalty,” or, worse yet, some sort of indifference to my roots. But my roots, both genetic and cultural, spiritual and intellectual, grow from all sorts of places. This isn’t rare. This isn’t weird.
“How do you figure fromness?” Chally recently asked on Feministe. The important thing is not letting anyone else decide the answer for you. It’s the same as trying to determine your work experience in a globalized job market, really – just on a more personal scale.