A quick recommendation of a personal essay in Guernica magazine on place(lessness), identity, and citizenship.
Ever since I started blogging in 2002, I’ve been obsessed with writing about place: one’s relationship to a place, both in the present and over time, and the intersection of place and home, place and identity and belonging, and place and placelessness.
In my search for great posts to feature on Discover, I love finding essays and memoir on place and identity. In many of these pieces, the writers plunge deep down into themselves to understand their connections to a physical place, or a country they were born, or a city they’ve adopted as their own, or a metaphorical place that exists somewhere between points A and B.
This week, I read a lovely essay in Guernica, “Among Strangers,” by author and journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian. In her research of buying and selling of passports, she reflects on arbitrary citizenship and placelessness and transience as experienced by expats, perpetual nomads, and people who belong to or identify with multiple countries (for whatever reasons).
My meeting with the first man on the plane stuck with me for years—not because of any romantic spark or sentimental notion (I fear I lack the capacity for such things) but because there is no good reason not to say hello, to have a conversation, to try to understand what, exactly, puts two people in the same subway, train, plane at the same time on the same day to arrive in the same destination, seconds apart. To travel with such ease between two places. To share not one, but two homes.
The idea of transience, of perpetual traveling, of having an A point and a B point that are interchangeable, has always felt intuitive to me. The mere fact of being from somewhere has become foreign. . . .
I could have hyphenated myself, I suppose—broken off pieces to fit in boxes, American-style. But I can’t shake the feeling that nothing entitles me to those pieces to begin with. I do not deserve them. And I don’t really want them, anyway.
She recalls an encounter with a man she met on a plane on the way to Madagascar, and later, their conversation over dinner — notably their shared opinions on Geneva, a city that always felt impermanent and never like home. In my browsing of blogs on WordPress.com, I know that many of you hail from all over the globe, and tell stories of where you’re from, where you’re going, and finding your own place within the world. Atossa eloquently touches on these ideas, so I thought to share it.
“Among Strangers” is a solid personal essay that explores what it means to be from somewhere else, and what it feels like to navigate here, there, and that hazy, complicated space in between. If you’re interested in these topics, I invite you to dive in.