My husband and I live between many different worlds and belong fully and completely to very few. When I first used the title, "An American Between Worlds," it was from an essay I wrote for the first Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network newsletter.
But over time, I have come to realize that living between worlds is more than just language and culture for me. Living between worlds is the result of the accumulated choices my husband and I have made to live a fuller life. Perhaps it has to do with wanting to have our cake and eat it too? Why must we limit ourselves to one choice, one group, one reality? I'm not asking that the society in which I live change its most basic structures and nuances. I am simply wanting to live in it in a way that matches my image of who I am on all levels.
The choices of language and culture in my life are simply the result of having fallen in love with someone from another culture and wanting to understand him completely. How can I understand who my husband is if I can not speak his language, have never lived in his country, have never spent time with his parents, siblings and cousins? I need to walk on the soil of his family's small, now-retired dairy farm; I need to smell the halls of his university and meet his friends; I need to taste his favorite foods and to squint when the winter sun hovers just over the edge of the horizon at noon and to then run home and snuggle on the rug in front of the heater in our tiny two-room apartment which had no shower or hot water and our toilet half way down the building's staircase. I needed to live with my husband in his world to understand him, to be able to be a part of his life. But to do so has meant to compromise my comfort and security, to step over an invisible threshold and to stand between two worlds, never committing to either fully yet cherishing both completely.
The same is true for other aspects of my life. My husband and I are homeschooling our children which has meant we have become friends with a whole new group of families (and unfortunately has made others choose to not have anything to do with us). But even in this choice we do not belong 100%. We are homeschooling while also both working part time. This means, we have to be extremely creative with how we go about this, a level of creativity that many other homeschooling families do not have to deal with (and which coworkers can simply not quite understand how we cope). We are unable to participate fully with the plethora of activities, events, gatherings and more that our local homeschool group organizes each month. Thus, we live a little on the edge of this world, not fully able to participate yet commited fully.
And what about working part time? I work in an office where most employees work full time and more. Our country has not yet come to appreciate the benefits of letting skilled workers who want to work part time do so. Working part time offers my husband and me a balance in life between participating with other adults out there in the world while at the same time giving us the space to be parents of three children and to foster our private nest at home. Living between these two worlds is often the most difficult, in part because there are so many unspoken judgements that are placed on us from society as a whole. In addition, we live at the whim of others who can influence our standard of living so completely. If we were to lose our jobs, our incomes would disappear and from there many changes would take place. Not that these changes would be bad, they would simply be placed upon us without our wanting them to take place. So, we are forced to work hard on this balance - not letting our jobs take over too much of our lives and not letting ourselves forget how important our jobs are for our family's livelihood.
Then there is Multilingual Living Magazine. Ah yes, this magazine is in a world of its own. It itself straddles worlds, cultures, languages, families. Each issue makes me realize how little Alice and I actually shape it and form it. We simply start the ball rolling, lay out the foundation, set up the canvas and then stand back and watch as others complete their creations. We then we put these creations on display for others to enjoy as much as we do.
This is my life between worlds; an American between worlds. Somehow, when I am not looking, these worlds fit themselves together and create something colorful, rich, fascinating, boring, frustrating, stressful, joyful, amazing and exactly what my husband and I have always been looking for.