No, I am not referring to having been an androgynous Pat, but rather having lived abroad. This post was started as a reply to the lovely Carolina Valdez-Miller’s wonderfully evocative post ‘Pieces’.
She writes freely and well of the pain and pleasures of living abroad as an adult, but didn’t relate those feelings and that experience to writing overmuch. Here is my reply to that missing portion. As usual, I might have taken it too far.
Having lived in foreign lands for more than a bit of my younger days, I have to say that this does inform and relate to my writing: I think I understand what it is to be the outsider, to be the one who doesn’t understand that which seems so clear everyone else.
I also know first hand the what opportunity moving elsewhere is to reinvent yourself. No one knows you; the fact that you might have been held back in third grade, or that your older brother beat up so many of his schoolmates you’ll never have to fight, that the vip-vip sound of your corduroy pants accompanied you through much of your childhood, that you are no longer solely defined by the sports you participated in.
I believe such experiences make it easier for me to step into character. I know what it is to assemble a character: what is needed for it to be believable, what they might sound like, how they look, what they might feel about certain things in life.
I will always be from Peoria, Illinois. I will also always be the guy from Peoria who lived in Spain and Switzerland, and came back different. I suppose it is much like going off to university for those that have not lived abroad.
Entering my day job was an experience of this: Aware of how different I was from the men and women of most police departments and families, I made myself over. I adapted, trained, reached a point where the culture of cop is my own, all the while aware (and in a bit of pain) over the fact that it will never really be my culture. Working informants, interrogating people, walking a beat, even the little undercover work I’ve done have all benefitted from the learning experiences of my youth. Of trying to communicate with the unknown.
If this seems odd or false of me, I suppose I cannot argue save to say that, like all the most successful of survival mechanisms, it knows little of morality.
No matter where you go, there you are.