“Where Are You From?”

by Matilda Steele-Smith

“Where are you from?” The dreaded question is asked all too often as soon as I open my mouth and my Australian-British-South African accent comes out. A question that seems simple yet holds the weight of my being, it is the question of my identity. It is not simply the answer to that question alone which can be a difficult and strange one to have when someone actually doesn’t care about my history — but rather the judgments that are made upon the story that ensues.

When I say I have moved around the world, people’s first comment is mostly “Wow! That’s cool!”, or “Wow! You’re lucky!” and yes, I am. I have had the opportunity to meet many incredible people, to have many weird and wonderful experiences, and to have gained a greater understanding of the world around me. However, after being asked this question at every social gathering, and not at the fault of the one questioning, I have begun to feel a sort of resentment toward the, “So where is home to you?” question.

I do not feel at home where I am today and will probably never feel totally at home wherever I will be in the future. There will always be some aspect of my current culture that I do not have an affinity with or do not particularly enjoy. I have struggled over the past years with cultural differences and language barriers, common courtesies and strange laws. I have eaten traditional British cream tea, and I have eaten ostrich off an open fire after it was killed by an “uncle” I am not related to. This has been my life, and although it has been an adventure, it has been oh so very tiring.

While my life has been full of getting to know and then leaving people, I have watched others grow up in situations of familiarity: childhood friends who shared their ice-creams become love interests, rivals at swimming carnivals become prom dates. Sometimes I wish to have grown up in the same place, where the lady who seemed to be a hundred and one years old next door has to be three hundred by the time I leave home. Where the hole in my back fence has never been fixed, and the swing I once played on in the park became the place I had my first kiss.

And yet that will never be. And I have to be okay with that. I have to come to grips with the fact that there are only really two things in my life that are constant. The first is change, and that means I will embrace change with my every fibre of my being. Because if I don’t, then this adventure won’t be nearly half as fun. And the second is who my Father in Heaven is, he whose promises never fail, whose mercies are new every morning. Whether I am in Europe or Africa, Australia or the absolute middle of nowhere, He remains constant, ever-present, unchanging.

Therefore, I have adopted a new identity: Citizen of Heaven. As my identity is found in him, and as my eternity will be found there also, I rest in the assurance that I do have a home. That home is wherever I am in his presence, wherever I remember his all-encompassing and never-ending love. So, to all those who may not have a home, who feel a sense of desire for something that seems unattainable, rest in the assurance that you are not alone. You are not the only one. But also remember that you have a God in heaven, whose Holy Spirit will fill every crack and crevice of your life, whose presence will become your home. That same Holy Spirit is able to teach all of us that our citizenship is indeed in Heaven.

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Matilda Steele-Smith is a 17 year old from Sydney, Australia who has spent the last 13 years in the UK and South Africa. After completing high school, she hopes to return ‘home’ to pursue a career in journalism. Passionate about social justice and all things creative, she loves writing and singing.

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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