P.S. His first paragraph is soooo Freshman College English class essay but he said to roll with it, so I am, just so you know that he knows and that I know and that we're both o.k. with it... I'll stop talking now.
P.P.S. Also, when I was younger, like Elementary School, I didn't know that you were supposed to write "P.P.S." when you wanted to add another post-script. I thought, "surely it must be P.S.S, otherwise it would be P.P.S. and that would spell (whispering) pee-pee-es...gross!" Later I learned I was wrong, and yet, not.
Martin strongly dislikes everything I have just written and is embarrassed to share this blog post with me but its my blog soooooo....
What's your name? Even that simple question has had more than one answer in my lifetime: In Poland, I’ve always been “Marcin,” while in the States I go by “Martin.” I consider these to be translations of the same thing and, like any other translatable word, have chosen to use the one which fits my audience’s primary language (and, yes, I do introduce myself as “Martín” to Spanish speakers – it always sounds so cool said back to me). What happens when my audience is multi-lingual, you ask? Well in case of a tie, the nod has always gone to Poland. And before I’m strong-armed into writing posts comparing the socio-economic realities of my two homes, I thought I should first say a few words about where this “nod” comes from.
I grew up in Poland, sort of. My father works for renowned universities in Poland and Texas; as a result, I spent my childhood bouncing between the two. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that we changed our country of residence about every two-three years, until high school. And, even though by that time I had spent roughly the same amount of time between them, I always considered myself to have been “born and raised in Poland…while taking trips to the U.S.” No doubt a lot of this has to do with the fact that my parents spoke to us exclusively in Polish and worked hard to cultivate a Polish community in Austin. I know now how much work this required and I thank God every day for my parents’ dedication.
Whatever the reason, my identity during childhood was decidedly “Polish.” I loved studying Poland’s history (which reads like a freakin’ action novel, btw – if you haven’t already done so, grab any old link from Wikipedia, clear your weekend, and dive in), took great pride in wielding what is commonly agreed to be one of the world’s most difficult languages, perked up any time Poland was even mentioned and generally reveled in being Polish. I remember this pride distinctly from my earliest years, despite the fact that my earliest memories come from one of my “trips” to the States.
As I was saying, my international “bouncing” reversed directions in high school. We’d still go back to Poland but only during the summers and about every other year. Pretty soon I became “born and raised (and summering) in Poland but living in Texas.” With each day though, surrounded by my fully-American peers, the first part of that description became fainter. And with each bi-yearly trip, compared to my fully-Polish family, that faintness became more apparent. It culminated during one particular trip during my early college years, when I heard several people tell me that “my Polish was very bad.”
I’d accepted that I’d always be Polish and at least a little Texan but now the pendulum had swung too far. My final years of college saw me very involved in the Polish students’ organization, writing my senior thesis about the tourism industry of 1990s Poland, reading over an hour of Polish news each day and searching for employment in Krakow. I simply had to go back, to reconnect, to realign, to rebalance. And I did. And it was great. Until I realized that there was something even stronger than Poland controlling my destiny…
|Picture taken in Croatia, Martin clearly looking longingly toward Poland, I am simply trying to touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth to make my face look slimmer for the picture. Priorities!|
Which brings me to my point: it’s very difficult to define what it means to “be Polish” (or any other nationality) these days. Distances are getting smaller, people are becoming more mobile and the world is simply changing. But whatever it means to “be” anything, I believe it’s largely influenced by one’s parents (and especially one’s mother… especially if you homeschool), one’s peers and one’s surroundings – and largely in that order. Irony would have it, that my ardent desire to reconnect with Poland is what made me realize that the mother of my children was going to be a Texan. Like I said, that much was beyond my control. But if my children were to think of themselves as “Polish” (and Texan), I had to work hard to level the playing field. This is why I make an effort to speak to my children exclusively in Polish and why we live in Poland. Yup, it’s all Olivia’s fault. :P