America Has Never Felt Like My Home/The Cult Chronicles
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a religious cult where I was constantly reminded that this world was not my home. I grew up with death on my doorstep. My parents told me that I was just passing through on my way to a heavenly abode. Hopefully, I’d complete the test and squeeze through the pearly gates one way or another.
Once I left my home and religion behind, I tried for quite some time to find my niche in the civilian world.
I really, really tried. Finally, I realized that even though I preferred my new life outside the cult, I still didn’t feel at home. Not at all. Over fifty years later, I’ve yet to claim my birth right, born in the USA.
Oh, sure, I have a passport and driver’s license, own property and attended universities. I have a birth certificate ferreted away somewhere, but apparently, that’s not enough to make me feel like I belong.
If truth be told, I don’t have a patriotic bone in my body.
I wasn’t allowed to stand for the pledge or swear my allegiance to America as a kid. And, now, I choose not to even though it’s for entirely different reasons.
Like Thomas Paine, I consider myself to be a citizen of the world.
When I say that, I’m keenly aware that I can back that claim with real experiences. Unlike, my provincial friends, I’ve lived and traveled abroad most of my life. I lived in Guatemala as a kid and I’ve been wintering in Spain for almost sixteen years. I’ve also been a longterm traveler, staying in many countries for the maximum time my American passport allots me.
So, I’ve had a firsthand glimpse of other cultures and no longer view the American culture as the best.
In fact, there are many things about living elsewhere that I find appealing. I guess that’s why I travel so much. I’m endlessly fascinated with different perspectives.
I left the cult right around the time the Vietnam War was becoming big news.
My friends were getting drafted right and left. Young boys who hadn’t even been as adventurous as I was were being forced to go to the other side of the globe to fight an undeclared war with little or no understanding about why they were there in the first place.
At least, I’d left home and was forging my way into civilian culture.
Many of these young soldiers, however, were still living with their parents in small towns in the midwest. They had zero knowledge about the cultures, languages, and people of any other country other than their own.
In fact, most had little firsthand experience with other regions of America.
I watched them through the lens of my multicultural experiences and vowed that I’d never raise a child to think that it was their duty to join the armed forces. Never.
To this day, I have opposed every war that America has either instigated or participated in. Without exception, I remain opposed to the next war.
When I say things like that, people cringe. I understand where the big grimace comes from and try to overlook it. It’s not purely the grimace of an American. Every country that I’ve ever visited has their own version of the patriotic cringe.
I’ve yet to find a country that doesn’t require allegiance, wave flags, sing patriotic songs, and teach their children that they live in the greatest country in the world.
It doesn’t matter that no one gets to choose the country of their origin. Nope! We’re handed a set of parents and a vast list of cultural expectations when we draw our first breath. From that day forward, we rarely question anything that our culture has taught us to believe. We assume that we are indeed living in the greatest country in the world.
And, we best adapt our true selves to this stroke of luck. otherwise, who will marry us, hire us, or be our friend?
To belong is very important to most people. We’re social animals and apparently need a tribe in order to thrive.
Those of us who must switch cultures out of dire necessity, like leaving a religious cult or immigrating to another country, sometimes come to realize that there is no greatest country in the world. There’s just the world. There is no master race. There’s just humans.
Not all of us, however, come to those conclusions, even if we were forced to leave the culture we were born into in order to survive.
I was lucky, I think. I realized this fairly early in life and in many ways that knowledge freed me from caving in to my desire to belong. Thus, I don’t easily identify with America. But if truth be told, I don’t actually identify with Spain or Guatemala or Ireland either.
I could easily live anywhere but nowhere as a nomad.
I actually did that for four years. I kid you not. I sold everything I owned and lived everywhere but nowhere. With a small backpack containing my worldly possessions, I traveled to different countries, rented an apartment, and stayed for my customary 90 days allowed on my American passport.
I quickly learned that people are people and every society has problems, past and present.
I also experienced a feeling of freedom that being tied to one country never gave me. I was free to be me because no one expected me as a visitor to conform to their way of doing things.
I got to pick and choose the things that aligned with who I am.
In the end, I stopped feeling weird about my lack of patriotism. Life was so much more than an imaginary set of boundaries. The human struggle was the same for all of us, no matter which culture we inherited through the sheer lottery of birth.
These days, I’ve come to terms with not finding my tribe.
I’m comfortable with not belonging. I left a cult and years of being assigned a subculture to soon learn that mainstream American culture was just as limiting.
I’m certain that I’ll never find a place to call home.
The world is my home. But even when I say that, I’m vaguely aware that I don’t entirely feel at home on this planet. That I really am just passing through. And, although I don’t think that one day I’ll be standing at the pearly gates hoping to be admitted to the poshest gated community in the universe, I also don’t know what comes next. Would I be more comfortable on another planet? Or maybe I’m an extraterrestial being. Maybe I was meant to open my mind even further and allow something remarkable to take place.
If I do, will I discover that it’s ALL a lie?
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.