My dear friend, Elena, posted a comment on my "thorny" rant and I wanted to take a moment to respond to her very valid points. Less of a retort, because in fact I agree with much of what she said, and more of a clarification.
Let me first start by saying that in my post I recognize there is more to this subject than what I posted. I agree that it was a very personal and somewhat superficial analysis of American culture, from my own unique and ultimately biased point of view. So, with that said, much was left out about what I think on the subject and why I think it - indeed it was a highly emotional reaction to my environment rather than an intellectual analysis. For the latter, I'm sure I would be less emotive and more logical in my commentary. Unfortunately, there's only so much space on my blog, so much time on my hands, and so much of my ranting that I can put you, my dear readers through, in one go. So, by necessity, my posts are often emotionally driven, random streams of consciousness.
Ok, so that sounded like a justification. Maybe I'm sounding argumentative, but I really felt it important that I respond to Elena's comments for this reason...
Anyone who knows me really well and who is privy to my innermost thoughts and fears, knows that I have struggled with maintaining my sense of who I am, while doing as the Romans do in this country. Anyone who met me 11 years ago when I first stepped foot in California and still knows me now, knows the agonizing process this has been for me and how much I have changed, much of it for the better, as a result. Of course, 11 years is a long time and no matter where I lay my hat, I would have experienced things that changed, matured me. Going through that process in an entirely different culture just magnifies that experience, makes it more intense.
So, I feel compelled to respond to Elena's comments that insinuate that I either don't make the effort to adjust my communication to be better understood by the "natives", and/or don't understand the need to do so. I have spent the last 11 years learning how to better communicate with Americans. I couldn't have survived here without being open to that process and I most certainly would not have had a successful career in communications/marketing without that.
But, here's the thing. While some of it definitely has ingrained itself into who I am and how I negotiate my life in the U.S., a lot of it is still artifice. After 11 years, I still sense, deep inside of me, the British gal's voice - I have just managed to develop a fairly good system of inner translation, a system that takes my true thoughts, feelings, and opinions and translates them into verbal or written expressions that Americans understand and can accept. Some days I do better than others. Some days I just want to tell everyone to eff off and just let me be who I am. Some days I'm just tired of the translation process and want to write or speak in a raw, unedited fashion. My husband knows this... we've had this conversation many times. One of the conditions of our relationship has always been that home is my place to speak unedited and share my innermost thoughts, however jarring, without judgment. I thank him for providing that safe place for me; I'd lose my mind without it some days.
None of this is to say that I expect or demand that Americans "take me as I am". Of course, this is a process of never-ending self-reflection and negotiation between who I am at my core and who I need to be to fit into my environment - this process is somewhat the same no matter where you live. You can't just run around sharing the first thing that comes into your head, without thinking about the implications, and expect other people to like it or lump it. That's just being human. HOWEVER, all this being said, the point of my post in a lot of ways was to express that there is only so much translating I can do - I am still me and I was not born in America. I am different and that does sometimes mean I clash with my environment. At 32 years old and 11 years in this country, I have come to a place where I accept some of that. That, on a personal level, people may take issue with my "thorniness" and that I'm ok with that. There is only so much translating one can do before one has changed the core message.
I also, again, would like to emphasize that my commentary on the differences between how Americans and English complain (or as Elena put it "whinge" - good word, that's exactly what we do) was not a complaint in and of itself, but a recognition of difference and an expression of personal frustration. The fact that I'm this way and Americans are not and that this creates some level of frustration (on both sides) is not a surprise to me, nor am I seeking to "solve" it by trying to change me or "them". It is the way it is and I've come to accept it. I write about it as one of the many things that I find interesting, challenging, frustrating... wonderful... about the experience of living in another country to which you grew up.
And that is what this blog has become for me... a place where I can share some very personal and extremely biased, often very emotive, perspectives on my innermost thoughts and challenges with living in a foreign country. I accept that in doing so, I will often not present both sides to the argument, I will be unfair, biased, narrowly focused and yet frequently over-generalize.
Equally, I thank Elena and other, wonderful friends like her, for sharing with me in their comments, the other side of the coin. The dialogue is stimulating and thought-provoking - how wonderful! Just forgive me if, once in a while, I feel a need to respond or clarify from a personal perspective.
Over and out...