In recent years, my nationality has been quite the topic of discussion, and surprisingly, I don’t mean within the recesses of my own mind. In fact, the current political turmoil surrounding a certain topic that rhymes with ‘schmexit’ has led me and those around me to assess my own national standing.
A fact that often twists people’s brains is that I was born in the UK and have lived here my whole (long) 22 years, yet I’ve only ever owned an Irish passport. With the developments of schmexit, having such a passport is quite the advantage. Yet, seeing all these people locate Irish grandparents from the woodworks of their ancestry has caused a growing sense of bitterness in me. My mum is Irish and my dad is British and I’ve never (until now) had an issue with those two identities existing within me. I’ve never explicitly claimed I’m Irish, and I’ve never explicitly claimed I’m British either, and that is where this conflict begins.
My whole life I’ve been raised with both cultures and nationalities in mind, never forced to choose one way or the other. Someone might argue that I’m British because I’ve never lived in Ireland, but to that I would say: you don’t get to tell me who or what I am. I know for certain that I am not solely British, and I know that on a level of relation I don’t only feel a connection to that identity. But, on the flip side, the same can be said for being Irish. Maybe you’re starting to see where my problem lies.
There are key cultural aspects of life that I’ve missed on both sides of the nationally-diverse coin. I talk with my British friends and notice things that I’ve never done or seen, or even felt. But I also talk with my (expansive) Irish family and know that I just don’t fit into the same national category. This is only made worse when it comes to filling out official documents and forms. I put British and they correct me, telling me my Irish passport makes me Irish. I put Irish and they correct me, telling me my 22 years of life in the UK makes me British. I’ve come across this when applying for jobs, when applying for my loans and even when applying for University itself. In fact, it has got to the point where I put British/Irish (if the form lets me) just to avoid choosing and to negate the complications of explaining how neither I’m one nor the other.
So that’s where I sit – right bam smack in the middle, appropriately confused, but somewhat comfortable. And I guess that’s what schmexit has made me realise: that I’m okay with just sitting in the middle. I don’t want to have to choose, because doing so would feel like choosing between my Irish mum and my British dad. And honestly, at the end of the day, I think these categories of nationality are restricting and pointless. Why must I choose which piece of land I belong to? Because I need to be patriotic? Because I should feel proud? Or because people want to make my identity easier for them to digest? Well, I don’t choose.