Montana is not known for its cultural diversity. That being said, when one of my friends asked if I wanted to get Japanese food while we were both in Paris this July I was a little terrified. Her experiences with culture in London where she lived and the time she spent in Japan made it quite clear that she was the dominant one when it came to diversity. I don’t even know how to use chopsticks properly. Seriously, it’s like watching a toddler tie their shoes for the first time.
Now technically this friend and I had never met in person, but through our Tufts University Facebook we had been talking back and forth with a fair number of other students and I was desperate to make a good impression. When the time came for our actual meal, I watched her every move like a hawk. I had never been to a real Japanese restaurant before, and somehow I managed not to make myself look like a complete idiot by watching her… I think.
I find myself doing this kind of thing a lot. I watch how people interact with others and I learn how to navigate proper miso-soup eating techniques. I add these skills to my atrocious chop-stick usage ones and go forth into the world feeling a bit more confident.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve felt a lot of guilt. While all of the other fellows and students I met talked about missing their families and feeling as though they needed to call them all of the time, I felt like a bad family member for not missing them. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my magpie personality had prevented me from doing so.
What I didn’t realize at that time was that I had no reason to miss them.
My best friends are with me every time I use a stupid accent or pun to make someone laugh. They are there when I do something weirdly spontaneous or have an incurable desire to bake cookies. My grandmother is there when I text someone to make sure that they are okay. My mom is there when I take a chance on befriending a stranger. My aunt and uncle are there when I feel protective of a new friend. All of my little cousins are there when I am silly and curious. My sister is there when I make sure that someone isn’t alone.
How could I miss them when they’re on this journey with me?
The greatest aspects of the relationships I have with my friends and family make being culturally inept that much easier. I owe them for making this dream a possibility.