Nobody I’ve met so far in America has ever guessed that I am actually Half American. My accent is still so strongly British that it’s almost crazy to imagine my father is from North Carolina. In my younger days, I didn’t really know what an American was. To me, my dad just had a really, really funny British accent. Overseas, when we think about the land of freedom and soaring eagles, we think of either Texas or Hollywood (exclusively those two).
Americans were either jolly, plump-bellied, gun-slinging cowboys, or dolled-up Kens and Barbies. Their depictions were solely found on the television screen, so I didn’t realize America actually existed. All the stories that came from the country itself sounded far too magical to ever be true.
“In America, everyone has a pony.” “In America, everyone is really rich.” “In America, everyone is happy and kind to eachother.” I think everyone, back then, was still in the belief that America was the wild west, but that might have just been what the kids were interested in learning about when I was younger. I was awe-struck when I came to realize that this country was real, and believed I would never, ever, get to see such a wonderland (as it had been described to me).
It turns out, not everyone received the same mental-image when it came to America. Most of the popular children were patriotic Brits to the very core. Our History teacher, Mister Bannister, was a babbling buffoon; he once made a side-remark related to American Idiocy and World Wars: I think that’s where the fad started.
I was quickly singled out. My name was changed (by them) from Gabby to ‘Yank’. What’s a Yank? I thought to myself. I had a very thick, Yorkshirian accent and knew nothing about America, but I was still treated like an alien. No longer did people want to sit with me; I lost many people I once thought of as friends… all because of a silly trend.
A few of the most memorable moments of being picked on by the ‘cool kids’ was having hamburgers thrown at me. “Eat Yank, Eat! That’s what Americans like to do!” Similarly, and perhaps alarmingly, my South African biology teacher got involved, “I bet Gabby eats five times more for breakfast than all of us, because she has American blood in her.” He said. Imagine hearing that as a self-conscious eleven-year-old girl?
I had to be taken out of the British School and put into an American School. It wasn’t much different though. “Can you say wah-tur?” “Why do you say tah-co? It’s Toh-co!” “You sound so funny!” I remember my American co-students saying. I couldn’t escape it, no matter where I went.
Being different taught me patience: it taught me how to feel numb to whatever negativity is thrown my way. Someone is -always- going through something; people are always judging, even if silently in their heads. When I look back, I think I should have just embraced who I was and went on my merry way instead of dwelling over it and running from bullies. If I had then, the knowledge that I have now, I would have simply stood my ground.
Because of my experiences, however: I am immune to that sad feeling that people often associate with criticism. I’ve heard it all and I can happily digest any critique (hopefully constructive) that is made upon me or my work; instead of getting upset or putting myself down, I’d sooner take a deep breath and figure out my next steps to improvement. This is a motto I live by for now and forever.