What do you see out of your window today?

The Sender and the Receiver

A story by Ángela Sjoblom Menzinger



Where are you from? It’s a simple question that could imply a one-word answer. It’s a beautiful question because the sender and the receiver have the potential to connect, to be tugged down from space, and meet like a magnet. And to connect they don’t have to have the same charge. Opposites, complements… different. Myself, I’m a receiver that will make a decision in a fraction of a second about the depth of the answer I will offer the sender. I’ll make judgments based on small factors like my mood, how tight my pants are, if a great song just came on. Nowadays it depends less on the identity of the sender*. Do I feel patient today? Do I feel strong today? Do I feel satisfied with who I am today? For a lot of us, this question is brain-splitting because it feels like it requires choices.

*Maturity is required.

I spent most of my days growing up in an area where there are strong sociocultural pressures on children, adolescents, and young adults related to career prospects, financial prospects, and most visibly: higher education. The suburban towns outside of Philadelphia and the people who live in them encompass a melange of demographics living in very close proximity of each other. That being said, I have never experienced the same feeling of social and emotional distance from my neighbors like I have known there. There are tangible differences, of course, such as wealth and age. Some have the fortune of representing the economically richest in the country while others represent the inverse. For me, it felt like there were lines drawn in the air between myself and others living in my 'community'. Somehow, I wasn't allowed to exist between the lines. Residing anywhere outside of a category was exhausting and deeply unrewarding. I had conversations with adults far too interested in my future about what I envisioned. One professional adult placed me in Ivy League medical schools in his imagination. I once shared the thought, "I could not be happy living here [in the US]" and this adult remarked how ignorant I was to say such a thing(!). Another adult commented that if I left the United States, I would always be an outsider everywhere else. This was presented to me as a warning, a sort of state-of-alarm message. Never mind my identity, in this person's eyes, no one would bother to accept me because I wouldn't possibly be able to send or receive any of the right messages.

In July, I was at my neighbor and friend's house having a conversation with someone new to me when he said, I was born and raised in the same small town. It’s quite boring. Oh! How I envy you! It’s my lengthy, insecure explanations that are boring!

My father, a lifelong airplane pilot and the son of a logger, was raised in a trailer park in Spanaway, Washington and he met my mother in Seattle, an outstanding academic in linguistics from El Berrón, Asturias, Spain. I was born during a late spring snow storm in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. The sun shined brightly when my parents brought me home so they bought a pair of sunglasses too big to fit my fresh face. I am American. The statement shivs me in the heart. The blade is jagged and improvised and it always comes by surprise! It’s only a fact, I tell myself, It was never meant to hurt you. I am Spanish. My first language is Spanish. I first learned to read, write and speak with my mother as my teacher, homeschooling me with the care and attention of a passionate linguist. I have been trying to be honest with myself, the receiver, ever since I recognized the mix of rage and shame living in me whenever my identity comes into question.

Maybe when you meet me you will notice the way I speak. I am well educated. I have, what my friends call an international accent. In reality my tone is the same as my mother’s. Our inflections, our inability to deliver common English expressions, talking to adorable things.

Maybe when you meet me you will notice the way I look. I am not thin, rather muscular. I am white, but not pale. I have thick locks of blonde hair. I love my curls. I have green eyes, my abuelo’s nose, and I am beautiful. But you won’t guess correctly where I am from.

Maybe you will notice what I am wearing. I dress to impress (my abuela). Fine materials. Well-made articles. The more handmade, the better. I wear the same jewelry all the time. I’m not conservative, not avant-garde. You will probably compliment what I have on, likely because it was chosen with care. I might have gotten it second-hand. Maybe from another country. It will last me my whole life but you won’t see me wear this again until you’ve forgotten it. Aha! A fresh compliment! I’ve fooled you!

Maybe you will observe my handwriting. My tattoo (1) is in my font but it’s in Latin. A dead end. My ‘I’s are never dotted. It’s a battle between script and cursive. Tall, thin letters falling on top of one another until you reach the right-hand margin.

Maybe I would like to be a mystery to you. Maybe I have nothing to hide. I am full of contradictions and I don’t think it should be a reason for you to not connect with me. When I was 17 years old, I moved to Bremen for a few months to learn German and try my hand at some challenging courses. I had the opportunity to absorb everything and reflect anything I desired. I could be whoever I wanted to be because no one was there to fact-check. In the end, I wasn’t surrounded by the right people. When I was 18, I moved to Maastricht, The Netherlands to begin my bachelor’s degree in a health-related subject. What a wonderful place! It is very international, though I will warn you, not very diverse. I really found myself there, I have made myself home. My friends are my refuge. I even stayed in Maastricht during the lockdown. I arrived straight from my visit to Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of March, 2020 only to be shut into our small apartment with my best friend and roommate, Bram. We got through it together excellently.

Then, in the midst of chaos outside our doorsteps, in hospital corridors, on politicians’ desks, it was the time for me to take care of myself, learn about myself, and to pay close attention. I generated balance, reignited some hobbies and explored my emotions. I buckled down for therapy over Zoom, a very odd experience, and performed outstandingly in my classes, also admittedly a foreign experience. I thought about my reentrance into the world after this pandemic then and again. I enter knowing that it’s all quite simple, the answer may just as well be the following: I come from trauma, I come from abuse, I come from confusion, I come from an autistic baby brother, I come to you LIVE! from anxiety. I come from curiosity! I come from love! I come from kindness and gratitude! I come from God! I am from everywhere and nowhere! I am here! I just am. My name is Ángela Delfina Patricia, I am 21 years old and I am a third culture kid.

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  Philadelphia, PA, USA


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