Culture · Death · Expatria · Third Culture Kids · Travel

Born Hybrid

Chris and The Magic Bus
Chris and The Magic Bus

In 1990 Chris McCandless donated all of his life savings to OXFAM and went into the wild to live in the Alaskan outback. He had the feeling he didn’t belong in the life his parents planned for him. He knew they’d not take no for an answer, wearing him down like a chainsaw until he collapsed under the weight of their expectations. After two years of wandering around America, he made it to Alaska, but never made it out. His body was found by hunters two weeks after he’d starved to death.

My grandmother’s great dream for my mom was that she become a schoolteacher and marry a nice Milwaukee boy, quit her job and raise her family. My mom had other plans: She went into the great global wild to become a peace activist in the heated 1960s, traveled the world, got a job with UNICEF, married a Sri Lankan, had three brown babies and kept right on living all over the world.

During the phenomenal Dialogue 2010 I met a woman, Jocelyn, who, like my mother, was born and bred in a white community but always felt there was something missing in her life, that somehow she didn’t belong. Like my mom, Jocelyn searched for her destiny outside America and found it in the wild of China, where she managed to learn Chinese in one year, fell in love with a local, got married and now works as a translator.

Dialogue 2010 also introduced me to Elmira, whose parents left Turkey for the unknown of America. Elmira grew up shuttling between the madness of New York City and her traditional Turkish household right smack in the middle.

In our discussion about hybrid lifestyles and location, I declared myself as not only living a hybrid lifestyle, but being hybrid through my core. Parents from two different cultures, globetrotting from birth, compounded by a myriad of creative urges that I always felt aligned me more with monsters and freaks than the so-called norms.

This got me to thinking about how so many of us grow up, regardless of the diversity or lack thereof around us, feeling we are different from our families or the majority of people around us. The intuition that our lives have a purpose that will not be run of the mill, what our parents want, or even what we wish it to be. Something new and unexpected.

Being born hybrid is knowing your path is hidden, overgrown, or far away, developing the courage it takes to trust ourselves and start from scratch by blazing a trail. There is no choice in the matter, our hybridity forces us, drives us, inspires us.

Being born hybrid is going into the wild in our own way, finding a home or at least some peace, somewhere in the uncharted out there of our futures.

Were you born hybrid? How did you find a life that fulfilled your hybridness?

10 thoughts on “Born Hybrid

    1. Hi Scary Azeri!

      Thanks for reading and FYI we also have the expat+HAREM in common. 🙂

      Looking forward to hearing more from you!



  1. You have to be kidding me! I was at a friend’s house tonight, and sitting there contemplating some of the things I read on your blog earlier….and I thought to myself, “I should recommend to her the excellent book called *Geek Love*”… And then you mention it!!! Synchronicity! Love it.

  2. This makes me think of the concept of otherness so often discussed in literary theory. I’ve always, always felt different, like I’m from another planet at times. I think it’s partially from living in my own little world, full of possibilities, and also from having a difficult childhood. I’ve always identified with anything different or other. My heritage is mainly Norwegian and Irish, so I’m not your typical hybrid. But creatively and emotionally, I’m very much so.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Vesper! Sounds like you are definitely one of us who was born hybrid, and I know what you mean about identifying with “The Other”. This is why I’ve always been obsessed with monsters and freaks, I relate with them more than I do with “norms” as Katherine Dunn would say in “Geek Love”.

  3. Thank you all for these beautiful comments!

    @Anastasia – Yes, we are similar hybrids in that way. Sometimes I feel lucky, sometimes I feel it might be easier to have been a hybrid born, as you say, in a homogeneous society.

    @Jocelyn – My pleasure. What you said during Dialogue 2010 has been reverberating in my brain to the point all other thoughts were drowned out. Being aware of your future children’s hybridness is the first step to helping them make their path. We didn’t really have these kinds of discussions when I was growing up, so you’re already way ahead of the game.

    @Rose – Wow, I had no idea otherwise I would have included you in this post too. What’s your connection to Milwaukee? For a long time I said that was where I was from in the States (in spite of never having lived there), but now I say California because that’s where I spent many years.

    @Rene – Thank you so much for reading and commenting. What a fascinating mix you are! My imagination lit up when I saw that. I agree that the older we get the more important it starts to be to reflect on our heritage and how we’ve arrived to our current location.

  4. I came here via Rose’s link on Twitter. My father was Punjabi, my mom is Mennonite. I’ve never made a big deal out of my mixed heritage, but recently it’s become clearer that it’s a fundamental part of who I am. I need to pay closer attention.

    Thank you for this articulate meditation on hybridity.

  5. Sezin, I love this post. It brings up complex reactions for me – remembering that feeling of not feeling quite in step with my upbringing (though living rurally for many years was great for the imagination), a mis-syncopation as I called it on Anastasia’s post Ring my Bell. Diverse my upbringing was not. We moved four or five times as a kid, but not like your experience. I didn’t realize you had Milwaukee in common, too!

  6. Sezin, what a thoughtful article (and I’m touched to be a part of it).

    What you write is so true — that sometimes it is an intuitive feeling, that sense of not belonging, the need to search somewhere else to find your destiny/identity/purpose.

    I’ll never know what it’s like to grow up in a multi-ethnic family like yours, but I can imagine that, if I have children, they might feel as you do — forced into a hybrid lifestyle. And if so, I only hope I can do my best to help them find what lifestyle is right for them (and not necessarily what is right for me).

  7. Born hybrid in a homogeneous society….a quirk of social genetics!

    This was not really my experience (I grew up in a mixed ethnicity family in the cultural melting pot of the San Francisco Bay Area). A cultivated hybrid!

    Looking forward to hearing from hybrids born in the wild.

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