Layers like an onion

So, you grow up somewhere, so of course what you learn there is right. The way you do things is the right way, the norm, whether it’s spelling certain words with a u or driving on the left or paying the rent with a direct deposit instead of a cheque. (Or a check.)

And a long time later, when you’ve been grown up for a while, you move to another country, where other things are considered the “right” way or the right words. So, fine, you’ll drive on the right because you can’t exactly rebel against that one, and you’ll spell colour without its u if that’s what they insist on, and you’ll write aluminum even if you still say aluminium, and stop for gas not petrol; but you know deep down that they’re wrong and you’re still right, and you feel pretty comfortable with that. Your way, the right way, is better. It’s more right. Other is wrong, by default.

But insidiously, after a long time, a change comes about that you’re not too proud of. You start to feel, somewhere inside, that maybe this other, new, way or word is not just acceptable but also maybe better, and that your way or your word was actually quite small and provincial. This is a big, shiny, new country. So many people can’t be wrong, really.

Maybe you’re right now, but that means you were wrong before.

And you know in your heart – no, not in your heart, because your heart is still conflicted and slow to accept change; in your head – that neither way is right, that it’s just a matter of different things in different places. But even when you reach that point of balance where you’re sitting right on the fulcrum and can appreciate the joy of all things being equal and no one thing being more right than another, even then you constantly tilt one way or the other with a breath of air, flip-flopping between feelings of superiority and inferiority, smug certitude and tentativeness.

The world opens up and for an instant you understand a fraction more about the vast number of things there are out there that you don’t know, and how hard it is to just let things be as they are, without deciding what’s better and what’s worse. Just for an instant.

And then you go back to being an ex-pat, with all the constant shifting judgement that entails about who’s right and who’s wrong this time.

Lake, trees, ducks

I didn’t have an onion.


4 thoughts on “Layers like an onion

  1. SuzannaCatherine

    I love this post! You took all the scrambled words in my head and made perfect sense out of them in this post. It does make a person think about which way is wrong and which way is right.

    I’m not exactly an ex-pat, but I understand the feelings you described. For the first 20 years of my life I lived in the far Pacific Northwest/far, far North, period. And then in the blink of an eye, I was transported from everything that was familiar to the Deep South – the land of (at that time) segregation as I had never seen it, a totally different mind-set, customs which seemed so strange, food that I hardly recognized, speech I could barely understand and weather I never knew existed; monsoon-like rains, followed by hurricanes from June to November, and such dreadful soul sucking humidity like I had never experienced.

    But, as you said, we grow older and we change, we adapt. We’re we wrong back then? Are we right now? I’m not sure.
    Lots of food for thought in your post. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. SuzannaCatherine

    Ooops! The dreaded autocorrect strikes again. Just one of the downsides of commenting from an iPhone. Sorry for “we’re” slipped in for “were”. Mistakes like that irk me. 😱


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