I EMBARKED on a very long journey of self-discovery in July of 2000. It was meant to be only a holiday in Ponta Delgada, with perhaps a hint of nostalgia for the city where I had been born, and where I had taken my partner to visit the beautiful island of my past.
It was my first time back on the island since my other visit there in 1984, which in turn was the first time I visited since immigrating to Canada in 1968. But in 1984 I was in love with someone back in Toronto, and as much as I enjoyed the visit, I was counting the days to return home to be with him.
There had been no anguish of soul then over doubts of identity and belonging, language and culture; no angst about “Portugueseness” or “Açorianidade,” a concept and word unknown to me at that time.
However, in 2000, it was a different story. Upon arrival on the island, the contact was like a knife ripping me open and it left this gaping wound that I have spent almost twenty years trying to heal. It was a visceral emotional experience that started this inner journey of trying to make sense of myself as a born Portuguese/Azorean living in Canada for most of my life.
The journey has taken me to emotional places I had never thought I’d visit, as I tried desperately to connect and claim my full identity as a person in the world living in two languages and cultures.
I started this blog four years ago as a way to help me articulate my discoveries, my questions and doubts, my acceptance of some things and the rejection of others. It’s been a long interior journey of constant self-awareness and the process of trying to translate myself from the Portuguese side of me to the English world has been exhausting, yet fruitful.
But I feel that I have now reached the end of this journey and I am ready to put down my mind’s travelling suitcase full of all that I’ve gathered along the way: the ideas, the people I’ve met, the mementos I’ve guarded jealously, all that I have clung to in order to feel secure in who I am.
The ever present awareness or consciousness of myself as a cultural hybrid is now settling in my mind into a state of comfortable acceptance of who I am.
I am no longer in translation nor do I care to translate myself any further for the benefit of making myself known or understood.
I am simply content to be, to exist in the world as I am, without having to process, explain or justify who I am as Portuguese/Canadian.
This new awareness allows me to experience my life without further dissection, analysis, justifications, interpretations/translations, and social labels.
This means that I can pick up a book by a writer like Agustina Bessa-Luís, (whose books are not yet translated into English) and read her without having to think about how she would sound like to an English reader. It’s enough for me that I can read her and feel her words in the language that I learned when I came into the world. For myself, I don’t need her in English and I leave it up to others to carry on the task of translating her if there’s a desire for it. I am simply grateful that I can meet her in the language in which she wrote.
Perhaps my recent journey to countries where I did not know the languages awoke something new in me: the realization that I’m fine not knowing everything or having to dissect everything about me in order to appreciate who I am.
I am letting go of all those burdensome tools of translation I have used during my journey. I lay it all down and walk away, wordlessly, no longer in translation.
You can read a reflection on my post by reader Susan K. Riggs here.