THE BLOG

What It Feels Like to Be an Outlier

04/20/2015 12:42 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2015

Have you ever been in a position where nobody believed you?

No, not for lying to them, but do they not believe you when you go introduce yourself to them for the first time?

Why am I asking you this?

Well, people never believe me and it happens to me all the time. Believe it or not, it hurts as much as your significant one not being able to remember who you are anymore.

By blood, I am Pakistani. A place I've never lived, but have visited only a handful of times. This is because I was raised in Japan, due to my parents' occupation. Now, I study at a post-secondary institute named Simon Fraser University in Canada. As a matter of fact, it's not a lot of moving around and I know that because I've had friends who have lived in various locations or even countries for certain reasons, but that's not the issue here.

Before moving to Canada, I would have just labeled myself as a third culture kid, but now I'm starting to doubt that.

Let me be honest, I came to Canada under the impression of how western movies portrayed it to be, mainly because I've never set foot on this continent ever before.

On my first time here, it felt like a bigger airport. It was an established nation of people who possessed different nationalities, cultures, religions and yet acknowledged their selves as one. This was refreshing because I often identified with three identities.

What I mean when I say three identities, which I will delineate subsequently, are the sides that I possess. The ones I developed over time, firstly from being educated at an international school and Japanese school. Secondly, a Pakistani side linked by blood, and also a Japanese side, I identify with because of where I was raised.

In Canada, I never am in the position of adhering to one of the sides. When I use the term 'side,' it implies to the personality that I hold in account to different circumstances. Those circumstances are the ones that have explained above briefly and will be specifically later on.

I was fine with that, not adhering to one side, but it felt like others were not fine with me.

By others, I mean the people whom I just met. The people who I've intended to call my friends, as soon as they've accepted me for who I am. The reason why I may find it preposterous to be multi-cultural with one nationality is because I hardly know about this country that I come from. I never had the opportunity to learn and incorporate my country's culture, language and traditions, amongst others.

This is merely since the Internet does not teach or have the answer to everything, and when I was growing up, there was nobody to teach me. After moving to Canada, I made a lot effort to learn some of it, but it's arduous. I can't force myself into making it happen. It's irrational.

Three different sides

In Japan, throughout my life, I have gone to international schools, except for the time I went to a Japanese junior high school. At the international schools, I had established my first side that consisted of its own blended environment aided by my classmates' backgrounds.

Just like me, there were many others who had come from different countries. We had something to relate back to without referencing to our backgrounds, establishing a social mixture of the society that we nurtured in. As of this matter, it successfully illustrated that we didn't really let our diverse backgrounds from interfering with our ongoing companionship. We met at school and often outside for other activities, yet it never occurred to us that we are all different in our own ways. This was a blissful ignorance to only present our sides that were compatible to each other. It just never sprung to our minds. It felt like we had redefined the definition of tradition and culture, according to who we were.

The type of things we accounted to, such as culture and traditions, is what we see as school events such sports day and carnival. There was no national holiday celebration or cultural day, it was neutral. Here were cultures we were allowed to define. There was actually a place where you could be yourself, and not represent someone that you were never taught to be.

However, outside school, I was nothing but a foreigner.

People saw me differently, even when I was spending time with my Japanese friends. What was the brutal sensation to that? Knowing that I couldn't be part of them, no matter what. No matter how much I tried, it was not feasible. Moreover, there were also some people who were jealous, even impressed, of the skills that I possessed as being a Japanese non-native speaker. Many of them have not encountered experiences like mine. Little did they know, I just wanted to be one of them, and not be seen differently.

In contrast, the things that we discuss in Canada are entirely different in account with my Pakistani side, my second side.

I have to bring out the inner me that I have never let out. Due to my Pakistani side being associate with language and culture, I've always attempted to keep this side of myself within the boundaries of home. It always had been my natural habitat to grow up in that way. Not because I was ashamed of it, but nobody else would understand it in Japan.

Here in Canada, I've been here for a year now, and yet I am not comfortable with it. I have, and do, spend time with friends who are from Pakistan, and the neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh. The only common thing among us is the language. I am content with the social activities we've done that include: playing games, going-out, watching a movie, outdoor activities.

However, you know what the worst feeling out of all is? It's being unable to understand the joke because you have no idea of their way of thinking. It's almost like feeling like a joke. Not being able to laugh or enjoy your time as much as your friends are. Instead of your heart being crushed once, it feels as though it were ran over by countless vehicles. I realized that their logic is distinct from mine. I do not have much to relate with them. Even if I was to relate, it would be about things that I encountered in Japan or someone else, and often they found it onerous to apprehend what I mentioned as they have not experienced or perceived what I have.

Similarly, with the Japanese friends I have made here, I'm often caught in situations that are no different in comparison to my Pakistani side. As for me, I don't consider myself to perfectly fulfill the Japanese characteristics that a Japanese truly possesses. To an extent, I can pinpoint myself to a level that holds certain knowledge and skills that satisfy my Japanese side. The least I can do is understand the depth of a conversation and jokes. Maybe, add in a little bit of culture and tradition that I learned in junior high, but nothing more. I never practiced any of that outside school mainly since my family didn't practice it. Nevertheless it still isn't convincing enough for others that I'm valuable as them to be included in their family, figuratively speaking.

They would invite me to a social occasion, but when there would be a topic that is linked to their traditions, there have been cases where I've been told, "Oh, you wouldn't know since you aren't Japanese."

What is that supposed to mean? I grew up in Japan, but because I am Pakistani, I am unable to somehow understand your experience? It would upset me more than it should.

All of the sides have their own pros and cons that had to be dealt with, but there was never a time where I was fully satisfied.

The transition:

The transition among these sides is not easy as it may seem to be.

This one time, I was in a room with two friends from completely different backgrounds, and I was the bridge between them.

One was Japanese, and the other was Pakistani. They both had problems when they mixed both languages and stumbled upon to a question, "How hard must it be for you with three different languages?"

I was juggling three different languages, cultures and nationalities in trying to bridge them.

Then, it hit me.

I wasn't perfect at it either. I wasn't able to think in one language without noticing it, and it started to irritate me more as I communicated with others in different languages. I started to zoom out of conversations. What could have I done? What can I do? It was just another nightmare in reality; everything was collapsing one after another. It never stopped. I still feel the burden of torture, punching me in the soul where even I can't reach out.

Hoping that one day it will all be fine.

There have been cases up on social media, as well as stories, that raise awareness of people who are unable to socialize and make friends due to being anti-social, nervous, shy and other problems that prevent them from establishing a proper relationship. Being able to share secrets, stories and emotions are not the only key to the best relationship; being able to be yourself, makes it perfect.

But, how do I do that?

I have numerous friends who are gregarious and make my time virtuous. Yet, there is this part of me that knows that something is missing. It could be that I am forcing myself to be something that I am not, or just that I don't have anybody to relate to.

I admit, I am fortunate enough to have experienced various cultures and traditions that many people do not get to experience. It's nothing to be proud of either. I know nothing about who I was originally supposed to be. I will never get to experience just one side throughout my life. I will never know how to feel my own culture and tradition just the way my friends and relatives have got to. I can't express my mixed emotions.

At the end of the day, the only time you get to be yourself is when you get home.

Nobody is going to care about what you feel because they've only seen the side you have kept aside just for them. Nobody is going to see you differently, even if you open up to them, nobody can change their first impression towards you. Once that impression is made, it stays imprinted.

There's no way out of it. I've tried my best, but I'll guarantee you: I'll always be an outlier no matter what.