I am an Indonesian of Chinese descent, living in Germany, and most of the culture I consume comes from the English speaking world. So I often ask myself, what do I categorize myself as?
For years, I managed to utilize all these different insights to navigate through the different environments I find myself in. I managed to blend in, gain trust and friends, and, perhaps most crucially, not offend anyone. It was a sort of superpower I used to my advantage as much as I used it to protect myself.
This was a status quo that I did not question for a long time, a burden I felt I had to bear. As I spread myself thinner and thinner, trying to fit in and please everyone around me, it was inevitable that the center will not hold. I felt neither here nor there. I did not belong, and every time I felt I might, I would be worried something would appear to distort this illusion, something lurking in a background, waiting for its chance to jump out for that “Gotcha!” moment. It made being myself difficult, it made me tired and afraid, of meeting people, of even being in the company of other people. There was always an act, a persona I had to play.
At some point I gained the confidence to actively not play the part expected of me, maybe because I didn’t feel like it, or maybe because it’s not something I’m comfortable with anymore. In some cases I did not do it because I wanted to shatter people’s expectation of whatever it is they project on me. I started to become myself.
Moving to Berlin was a watershed moment for me; it allowed me to break out of the mold of conformity and realize that there are people with similar struggles as mine. It allowed an exchange of perspective and knowledge, and, most importantly, it allowed me to share my experience, a process that I feel is beneficial to both the people around me and myself. This month’s issue is just one of the many manifestations of the aforementioned process. Through the amazing submissions shared by our guest contributors I hope to empower those who are struggling and inform those who don’t understand. Ultimately though, even if there are some things that might not resonate with everyone, there is one simple message that I hope will come across: you are not alone.
Berlin, August 2020