This post was written by a friend of mine, Lily, who has lived in India for nine, almost ten, years.
Foreigner, American, new kid, I can’t tell you how many times I have been defined under these terms. I get it, it’s different, I’m different, I’m the new kid. I mean, how many people have met an American who lives in India? But one thing I have learned from growing up in another culture, another country, in a faith where I am the only one believing it, is that you can’t be defined by where you live. The things that define you come from you.
Obviously, I have had experiences that other kids my age haven’t had. Like having a neighborhood-wide water fight on Holi. Having friendships with kids from Korea, India, Afghanistan, and so many other places. Having two homes, both of which I live in at various times, and know extremely well. Being able to fit into two entirely different cultures, and having deep friendships with people who were raised in a completely different way than me. But I realized that these experiences don’t define me. They have only helped create the things that I use to define myself. My ability to lead and put together a successful prayer and worship night, it came from an amazing youth group where people who are here for the same reasons as me. People who have taught me so much about God, growing in my faith, about myself, and how I want to change as a person? My ability to have no clue what is going on, but still have a great time? Kudos to all the hours I have spent at the community center playing badminton and goofing off with my best friend Beena. My very dramatic flair and love for all things sparkly? Definitely because I grew up in a culture where dressing up is very important and fun! When the power goes out, do I freak out? Nope, I know how to handle it, keep my calm, and know that it’ll come back on soon enough.
I was asked to write about my experiences and how they have affected me. So I guess I want to finish this by saying that all of my experiences, whether they’re living with an Indian family for two months, having my best friends be of many different faiths, or having visited countries I would have never imagined visiting before, all of these will make me a different and better person as I grow and eventually move back to America.
But I don’t want where I grew up to define me. I want my love for others, my love and relationship with Jesus, my acceptance and appreciation for other cultures and people, and the unique people I have gotten to meet to define me. To say who I am and to reflect all the blessings and hardships that I have faced.