Always on the outside, always strangers somewhere

A sketch of three circles overlapping each other at some points.
We all want to fit into nice boxes, but the boxes are all over each other. Lee Lim

The complexities of identify leave many of us reeling

Identities are complicated, nuanced, and multi-dimensional. As if that was already not a lot to contend with, identities, at least to me, are never constant and ever in flux.  

If we meet a person twice, ten years apart, we are often looking at a completely different person. This is perhaps for the best. I often think of things I have done and said when I was a teenager, and while I do not judge myself for those things, I do feel that I lacked many an admirable trait in order to have done or said some of those things. To me this means I have grown and can recognize my past shortcomings. I can only hope there is something I am doing today about which I will feel similarly in ten years.  

If I do not, it could mean I have attained perfection. More likely though, it will mean that over 10 years I did not challenge any of my opinions and beliefs. That is hardly ever a good thing. A mind is not a guest bedroom, to have all made up and seldom used. 

But back to identity. I was born in a small country in South Asia, in a family that lived as well as they could by the dominant faith of the region. To be more precise, the dominant interpretation of the dominant faith of the region. Today, I find myself drawn neither to that, or any other interpretation, of nearly any faith. I find myself more and more convinced that Spinoza had a point, but I am not yet clever enough to understand his point fully. But there you go. From someone who had never heard of Spinoza and could find comfort in the rituals of his community, I am now someone who is trying to understand how to function in a world where no ritual conveys any comfort. 

By the time I was in high school, I had read about the history of my nation. Not the sanitized history of textbooks, but the raw ones from journals, autobiographies, and conversations. I was proud to say I was a Secular Bengali Nationalist, standing at the point in the political spectrum of my nation that even made it possible for my people to have a nation.  

I have been out of high school for a while and I am not longer able to call myself a nationalist of any sort. Not after seeing what my people did to each other, over the flimsiest pretext, in the name of Secular Bengali Nationalism.  

Today I live in Canada, immensely and eternally grateful for the opportunities this nation has given me. Yet I am conflicted, because there is so much harm this nation has done. Not always to my people. Except, are they not all my people? As long as anyone, anywhere, is vulnerable to harm due to the colour of their skin, their faith, their name, or simply the fact that they do not have disposable income, I am vulnerable to harm. The bell tolls for me. 

And these days, that is what I think of my purpose as a being. I am the eternal outsider, never at home, never feeling like I belong. In every congregation of people, I can always find one thing that sets me apart, makes me stand out like a sore thumb. And that is my contribution to the world. Because you see, the day I feel accepted, loved, and like I belong, we will know the world has been perfected. Me, and others like me, are the litmus test of how much we can love the stranger. For we are all strangers somewhere. 


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