Friday, July 30, 2010

Identity Crisis

I'm gonna warn you, this post is more worrisome personal reflection rather than interesting or amusing or informative stories. If that's not your thing, please don't bore yourself. But other Rotary kids might be thinking some of the same things, so maybe it'll have some merit for those folks.

Rotary always tells me that I'm going to change this year. I thought, "yeah, yeah, whatever". I have spent my whole life operating on the assumption that people are essentially the same all around the world. This I gauged through my travels to Australia, Costa Rica, England and Scandanavia.

The thing is, those are all Western countries. In India, people are different. Not in terms of humanity, helpfulness and kindness. That they have in spades. But I was completely unprepared for the vast cultural disparity that there is between my home and India. There are things that are of essential importance to my lifestyle that are done completely differently here. They have massively different ideas on gender relations, formality, household structure, education. All of which I see the point of. I understand why Indians arrange marriages, for example, and it's really not for bad reasons. They have decent reasons that they do the things do. But still, some of their lifestyle attitudes are alarmingly different from mine.

The point of this, I didn't realize how much my substance, my essence was going to have to change to adapt to this culture. I feel pressured to adapt, and quickly. To fully adapt, though, to fully become part of this culture I have to become someone entirely different from myself. Which is a bugger. I like myself. Is it worth it to change Ted Meyer the American so that I can become Ted Meyer the Indian for 11 months of my life? I mean, the United States is my home. This, it feels more like home every day, granted, but it's not where my heart and head lie, and it never will be. I already see the changes in myself. I used to intentionally put sentences in the incorrect manner that they do so they would understand me, but I realized with a jolt today that I was doing it subconsciously as I was writing. And there are other things too, more complex things that I couldn't really explain without extensive background information.

Ultimately, I'd rather be an American than an Indian, but it may well be possible to act as two people. I haven't figured it out yet completely. I'm still less than two weeks in. However, the entire point of this is to become bicultural, and I think I will have to change. But you know, I think I can find ways to stay myself and still lead a healthy, involved Indian lifestyle. This blog, for one. It's extremely refreshing to write like I would talk in America. Contact with home of any kind is another.

Now there is, of course, a fine line between remembering where you came from and trying to pretend that you're still there, and I'm going to have to toe it. There's a very good reason Rotary recommends slim contact with home. It's difficult for me to gauge how much is too much. I'm still not going to break my monthlong Facebook vendetta, except to accept new Indian friend requests, and I think I will hold off on Skype too. This is probably still a healthy thing to do. It won't be a good experience with my head in the United States.

But I do think contact with home is not as damaging as Rotary made it out to be, and actually for me will probably be critically important to keep my head in line. I wonder if it's unhealthy to try and stay myself while I'm still here. I wonder if it's going to deter from my experience. But you know, I like Ted Meyer the way he is and I'm going to do what I have to, within reason, to not completely lose track of him.

There are easy ways to do this. Today, apart from now, I spent no time on the computer and I still had some good, centering memories of home. How? Songs. Music induces memory like no other. Except for smell I suppose. Examples - today I listened to Kids by MGMT and I remembered that I'm still who makes crappy harmonizations with Mark. Then I listened to Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, which has a sick drum part, and I remembered Jakob the amateur New Year's Eve drummer.

I really hope I can find a way to strike a good balance. This is going well, but still I have my concerns - both that I will lose myself in this exchange and that I will be so focused on not losing myself that my exchange will end up doing nothing for me.


  1. i like ted the way he is too :)

  2. Stay gold, Tedlyboy. And I would hhhhhhardly say I'm a drumming amateur. Sing Sing Sing never sounded so good. All joking aside, though, this post was really interesting to read, Ted. I hope you can adjust successfully to Indian life, but I do also hope that you keep your one-of-a-kind personality. I know I at least am already looking forward to seeing your slightly pixelated face on Skype in a few weeks

  3. Let India change you. You'll find that as much as you immerse yourself in the culture, the truly special and enduring qualities of yourself will never change. This is an opportunity to see who you truly are, Tedly. The things you retain after this year will be the things that really matter. Sure, you may lose or change some of the unimportant the trends and trivialities that come from spending a lot of time in the same environment, but those are just the things that are keeping you from seeing the real you. Also, the things that you pick up over this year in India that you retain once you return to the US will be the truly valuable and life changing experiences. The most I ever learned about myself came from spending a year in England, and that was in a western country and with my family. You will probably learn tons more than that about yourself, and become a stronger and more unique person in the process. But just to put your mind at ease about one thing, Tedly- when you return, regardless of how much you change, our friendship with you will never change. We will love you all the same, and in that respect it'll be like you never left.

  4. well after will's super deep comment, i almost don't want to say anything...but i agree with him (and jakob and stina) because i think that you are a really cool and unique person already, and adapting to different customs is not going to change who you really are. so not to worry, you'll always be ted :]

  5. when you're in india, you should be ted the indian. thats what exchange is about; you'll add new traits to yourself. when you come back to the states, you'll be ted the american again, just with added knowledge that i'm sure everyone will appreciate. it seems like you're doing great so far there, don't worry!