I don’t know what I am, aside from being a human female of course, but, aside from that, it’s hard to categorise myself, race- or nationality-wise. It’s a curious thing to not be sure where you belong.
My dad was half black, half Puerto Rican, born in PR but grew up in New York. Dark brown skin, nappy hair, has dreads or a ‘fro in most of his photos. My mum’s Australian with an English dad – blonde, blue eyes. My sister and me look like the odd ones out in photos with my mum’s side of the family. Two little brown people in a sea of white. I’ve never felt any different but, of course, you never look like everyone else.
When asked my nationality, the short answer is usually Australian-Puerto Rican. People latch onto the PR element as obviously I don’t look all that Australian and I think they’re a bit disappointed when they learn that I don’t speak Spanish. I’ve been to Puerto Rico a few times and I can understand enough Spanish to get by but don’t really know how to identify with being Puerto Rican seeing as I never really grew up with that side of the family. I reunited with them a few years ago in New York/New Jersey and it was wonderful and they made me feel very welcome and included but most of them speak Spanish and have a shared common history so it’s hard to get past that feeling of being the long lost relative. It was weird though, the last time I visited PR (in 2012), I had a strange feeling of being home although I’ve never lived there and had only visited a few times as a child.
On the other hand, I lived in Jamaica from the time I was 10 until a few months before my 18th birthday. I don’t consider myself Jamaican but I spent a significant amount of my childhood there. The food, the music and the language, the whole experience feels more a part of me than my earlier years in Australia. Usually, the full nationality description I give for myself is ‘I’m Australian-Puerto Rican but I grew up in Jamaica’. A lot of my friends just introduce me as their ‘Jamaican fried’ or ‘Nat comes from Jamaica’. This description actually got me into a drunken argument with a guy in New York; he was determined to prove I wasn’t actually Jamaican while I argued that I never said I was, I just grew up there. Side note: drunk people should never argue. You just go round in circles and get nowhere.
Then, of course, there’s Australia. I was born here, lived here til I was 10 and then came back for my 18th birthday (with two short stints in between). That means I’ve been back for 14 years. Yet, if I’m completely honest, I’ve never really felt all that Australian. As a child, it was easy to get swept up in the patriotism of the Olympics or a cricket match but, as an adult, these things don’t really mean anything to me because I have exactly zero interest in sport. The time I most identified with being Australian was when I lived in Jamaica and I think I clung to that idea of being Australian and identifying with everything Aussie because I couldn’t be Jamaican.
Now I’m back in the land down under and I hardly feel Australian at all. Yeah, I worship summer and the beach and I love drinking (especially if it’s in summer while at the beach) and I am 100% behind the sarcastic sense of humour but… what else is there? What do we have that’s uniquely Australian that isn’t tied to some stereotypical idea of hooliganism, bush culture and kangaroos? Personally, I’m on team wombat or koala; they’re much cuter.
Maybe I just like being exotic so I refuse to identify with whatever country I’m currently situated in (although I feel like I definitely want to fit in more in places like Jamaica and Puerto Rico). Or you know what? Maybe I’m just a global citizen who shares her heritage, DNA and whatever the fuck else you get from being mixed race with the world. I’m not from any one place. I’ve been moulded by all the different people I’ve met and places I’ve lived and that’s what makes me who I am. Yep, I reckon that’s it. Mystery solved. I’m from everywhere.