Sunday, August 6, 2017

Who I Am

Who am I?

It’s an age-old question – and is there ever truly a correct, definitive answer? We ‘think’ we know who we are at various stages of our lives, but do we ever truly KNOW? The question of ‘who am I?’ is all very philosophical and a philosopher I am not, so for my own purposes – and for the purposes of this writing – I will be exploring ‘who I am’ in the sense of my nationality and ethnicity, from a very SIMPLE point of view.

And I know I will likely be blurring nationality with ethnicity, but I’m a simple girl trying to figure out who her simple self is, so work with me here....

Take, for instance, the concept of ‘we are what we eat,’ but in a cultural sense. What we eat can often define who we are and where we come from. And apparently as a Canadian, and a West Coast girl at that, there are certain foods I’m supposed to like or eat on a regular basis - just because of where I live. But what if I don’t like those things? Does that mean I’m not Canadian? Does that mean I’m not truly a West Coast girl? So then, therefore, who am I?

Historically speaking, and to make it all sound so much more glamorous than it really is (for the sake of entertainment), I was born on an island – Lulu Island aka Richmond to be exact – surrounded by ocean and river waters. Confusing, but true. Years later I moved to another island - Vancouver Island, to Victoria to be exact – only to be, yet again, surrounded by ocean waters. So being surrounded by ocean water means that seafood is BIG in these parts, with salmon and crab on many menus.

But I guess I’m a disappointment to all Canadians, West Coast folks, and especially my family because I don’t like salmon or any kind of fish, crab or any other kind of shellfish. However - just to contradict myself - I like tuna from a can, shrimp that comes frozen in a bag, de-veined and de-everything-ed, crab or lobster that has been de-shelled for me and looks nothing like it's original form, and fish and chips that are made for me, and all preferably in a restaurant. But not salmon in any form.

When I tell people I don’t like salmon, they are simply AGHAST – especially people I meet from across Canada or overseas (I live in a tourist town, so I meet lots of folks). They are shocked to know I have always lived here yet don’t indulge in any of the local fresh seafood, and even more shocked to know I don’t go fishing.

I know it’s all very contradictory. I WISH I could be one of those people who goes down to the boat docks and buys fresh seafood right off the boats like everyone else. And I know people come from MILES to experience what I have right in my own backyard.

So does all this mean I’m not a West Coast girl? It’s ONLY seafood after all.

But then am I still Canadian?

So I have to really wonder about my Canadian-self because I don’t like poutine and I have never had a Beaver Tail. I hate smoked meats, and don’t get me near at tortiere (a meat pie made with all kinds of ‘meats').

Buy maybe there is hope for me yet, as I love Tim Horton’s, Nanaimo Bars, Butter Tarts (I didn’t know butter tarts are ‘Canadian’), potatoes, and Labatt’s Blue beer. Finding this list of ‘Canadian’ foods sent me on a further tailspin, but at the same time gave me hope. (click here)

I was born and raised in this country, still live here, so I truly do know I’m Canadian. My birth certificate tells me so and my driver’s licence, however horrible the picture, tells me so, as well. But am I really who I think I am?

And does hating all these culturally specific foods make me a fraud? Am I not who I think I am?

I have to talk to my parents on that one, I guess…..

Aside from my birth certificate telling me I’m from British Columbia, Canada, I DO know I have strong Irish roots on both sides of my parents (don’t many of us?), so maybe that plays a part in my hating all these different kind of Pacific Ocean grown seafoods. I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl, or more to the point, potatoes in any format. I love stews, tea, butter and bread. I’m no expert in Irish foods, but when I read this list of Irish-typical foods, my stomach growled and my heart longed….until I noticed their affinity for salmon and shellfish. (click here)

Despite the landing papers from my great, great grandfather showing him arriving to Massachusetts, USA from Galway, Ireland, I still wondered…

Right about this time during my self-identity crisis, my sister took a DNA test through – you send in a sample of saliva, and your DNA ‘will be analyzed at more than 700,000 genetic markers then with in 6-8 weeks, you get an email with your online results.’

To think that these days our ethnic and geographic origins are basically at our fingertips with a few spits of gob! Who knew spitting would actually be useful versus disgusting (at least we aren’t doing it on sidewalks). We can finally answer the age old question - Who Am I?

So with technology making our ancestry and heritage questions more easily answered, maybe we can all be a bit more sane and settled with ‘who we are.’ (Except for the cases of discovering information about ourselves and ancestors that can be shocking and life-altering, but that’s another blog post in itself.)

So given she’s my sister and we ARE related (AS FAR AS WE KNOW), we all watched her live performance of ‘extracting’, sealing and mailing her precious spit, then waited in anticipation to find out who we are – and more importantly, WHO I AM.
But of course with the Pony Express having imperfections as we all humanly do, the spit got lost in the mail. All that waiting only to have her spit lost and leaving us wondering if someone is going to clone her (hey, that would make for a good story….)

So again, my conflicted inner self had to wait and wonder about who I am for a while longer....

So again with another kit in hand, my sister extracted her spit and again we waited with baited breath - our own spit intact. I secretly wondered if some sordid family history would be revealed – it would make for good daytime TV drama, if nothing else.

And the day finally arrived....

The results: a high percentage of Irish decent with a good percentage of....Scandinavian? THAT was a surprise! Now I know that each sister would have a slightly different test result, otherwise we'd be twins, but it's safe to say that I 'THINK' we are all pretty much the same. Although we didn't expect the Scandinavian influence (wanna go Viking anyone?), the results were pretty much as expected.

But the Irish AND Scandinavian mix still has me a bit perplexed, however. They are all big seafood lovers, why aren't I?

And is one little DNA test or one little fish really gonna tell me WHO I am?

Not only does it go to show you aren’t always what you eat – and for that matter, you can‘t be judged on what you do and don't eat - but at the end of the day spit, blood, landing papers, and epicurean tendencies cannot truly define who you are. Yes, we all have a genetic, cultural root basis, and just like the tides in the oceans separating me from my lands of heritage are always changing, who we are is always changing. I know I'm Canadian. I know I'm of strong Irish decent. I know I hate seafood, except for all my caveats and contradictions. Maybe I WILL like seafood one day. And heck - for all I know maybe I will move and become a citizen of Vanuatu (Google it) one day. Who knows?

But as my family, who are only merely separated by geographic location and nothing else, all watched my sister spit in a tube via the wonderful thing called the internet, I realized: no DNA test is going to change us. We are who we are NOW.

And just as importantly, I know who I am NOW, I love where I live NOW, and I love what what I do NOW. And I know I will always love and adore my family near and far for all time, no matter who they are.

Because at the end of the day that's all that really matters, and that's all I need to know, and my family is more important to me than worrying about the never-answered question of who I am.

Now off for some fish and chips....


  1. This post had me laughing out loud. I so enjoy your writing. Thank you for a great read. It's only this year that I started liking poutine, but I don't like beer. Joanna V.

  2. Hmm, I wonder what the other 14% "Other regions" are. I, too, am agahst at your dislike of seafood, Lisa, but I hear you on the poutine (I shudder at the thought), and I've never had a beaver tail either. Nor can I stand beer. What a fun post!