Being away from America has made me lose myself. Why? I have realized that everything that has defined me in my defining years has been in relation to America. Everything that I process in terms of my being has been in relation to America. And being in Thailand has quarantined me.
What fed my intellect and interest was my Blackness. It has always made me feel empty and whole and partial. Now I feel nothing. I can look at the headlines of recent murders of Black bodies, have my disappointments about people who can march for women and March for Our Lives but not for Black Lives, and read about the foolishness continuing on in the White House, and feel nothing. This feeling is not currently a negative nor positive feeling, it is actually quite relieving. Those interactions I had that reaffirmed my race have been rare. I don’t hear much about my dark skin, my kinky hair, my curves. And if I do hear it, there is a particular way that it doesn’t affect me like it once did. I don’t reflect on it like I once did. Or maybe, I reflect on it differently.
Because of this, I feel like I am losing myself. I haven’t talked about race in a complex way in over a year. I haven’t talk about race in a complex way with Black people in over a year. It was these conversations that created defining experiences. Those conversations shaped and molded my social, political, religious, and ideological beliefs. I haven’t been in a classroom, studying and discussing Blackness, in over a year. I haven’t had long conversations with close friends about recent events in over a year. And honestly, I don’t want to have them.
I fear for my transition back to the states. In a short year I will be getting off a plane and stepping back into my once upon a reality. My older friends will continue to be my friends and I will strengthen my relationships with new ones. My older friends will continue to talk about what’s happening around them as it relates to their Blackness. My newer friends might talk about what’s happening around them as it relates to our service. Then there will be me, off track, uninformed, and confused with a two year’s long developmental gap of my understanding of being Black in America. I will have another perspective that my older friends won’t identify with. I will speak about things differently. How differently, I am not sure. I will approach situations differently and have a different tolerance. I already feel it.
Possibly, majority of Peace Corps volunteers celebrate the process of change they undergo throughout service but this specific change in me, I genuinely fear. There are times I don’t recognize my thoughts. It’s not a numbness, it’s unknowing. My Blackness, as I understand it now, is in relation to being in Thailand. Being Black in Thailand, specifically in my experience, has been a point of curiosity and assumptions. Being Black in Thailand is being a tourist or an immigrant from Africa. Being Black in Thailand is, obviously, separate from being a darker skinned Thai. Though colorism does exist, being Black in Thailand is skipping through the line with a passport and visa. It’s foreign.
I’m not the person I once knew and it is not because of my resilience, self-advocacy, and/or flexibility. These are attributes I had prior to taking this journey. What I didn’t anticipate was a disconnect of being. I didn’t anticipate that gaining a new context of self could mean the evaporation of another (or is it an evolution?). I didn’t anticipate that I could lose myself. And I won’t know until another year if this is good or bad for me.