Monday, November 15, 2010


Recommended listening: Home from The Wiz

This past Friday the organization LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) came to speak at my school. As a board member of Global Citizens Club, a club which focuses on human rights, our themefor this portion of the year is LiNK. Three representatives from LiNK, called Nomads, came to show students LiNK's newest film: Hiding. The movie documented what it was like for North Korean refugees as they ventured through China, in hiding, and through South East Asia until they finally found safety in either South Korea or the United States. Although short, the film and entire LiNK organization sends a powerful message. There is an incredible humanitarian crisis going on in North Korea. What are we doing about it?
Friday night I went out to dinner with the Heartland Nomads.

I had a great time talking to them about their involvement in LiNK, the crisis in North Korea, and just about their lives in general. The entire day really got me thinking. The situation in North Korea, regardless of how informed you are, is still very difficult to grasp. What is it like to eat boiled bark as your only source of food? What is it like to choose between a life of oppression and one as the victim of sex trafficking? What is it like to have to flee your homeland?
Fortunately, these are questions I don't have a first-hand answer to. But the information LiNK shared with me has certainly opened my eyes to the situation, ignited a spark of passion to help in any way I can, and led me to blog. As a blogger about identity construction, I can't help but wonder how being a refugee impacts one's identity.
I came across this article about a Pakistani refugee. The more information I read, the luckier I feel. It almost goes without saying, but a huge part of who we are links (no pun intended) back to where we come from and where we live. In a sense, we are our home. Even if that home is a place of heartache or struggles, that home shapes who we are. All of our basic needs are met, or in some instances cannot be met, at home. And, when there is reason to leave that home, what becomes of us?
I guess the closest I can come to relating to the need to flee one's country and seek refuge is the idea of moving out and going to college. Of course, my version of leaving home is far more luxurious, but some of the same sort of principles still apply. Next fall, for the first time in my entire life, I'm going to be living on my own. I won't come back to my house, my family, or my hometown on a daily basis anymore. This is both exciting and frightening. Who will I be without the concept of home to fall back on? Will I rely more on stories of home to define me? Will I try to reinvent myself without home tying me down? Will my perception of home change? Who will I be once I've left the only home I've ever known?
Once these questions are put in a more mainstream framework, I think they have additional value. Although most of my readers have never had to flee their country in order to seek refuge due to starvation or oppression, most people can relate to the fear, anxiety, and life-altering impact of leaving home. At this point I don't have the answers to the above question, however they are worth thinking about. What impact does leaving home have on our identity?

Maya Angelou


  1. Jamie! Your blog continues to amaze me. Every time I see a new post, I get so excited!

    No matter what the post may be about, you allow your readers to connect it to their own lives, which I love! I especially like this week's post because of how you connect it to your future. Although it may not be as drastic, it demonstrates the idea of change. Change is such a scary thought at times, that I cannot even imagine having to flee my own country and enter a new one.

    On another note, I know you'll do absolutely amazing at college, and will adjust quickly.


  2. Great post Jamie! I liked how you linked everyday life to such a deep questioning of identity. It really shows your love for your blog. Your last 3 posts were genuinely thought-provoking, and left me with new questions every time. You must be getting an A in English! Anyways, as somebody who has moved schools countless times throughout my life, I could really connect with this post. Leaving home is always tough, but making a new one can be even tougher. Every place a person considers home impacts one's identity, because for somewhere to truly become a home to a person he or she probably loves the place in someway or another. I think that one's personality also plays a large role in how they react to moving. I'm pretty lucky to be a resilient and adaptable person; I can't imagine the impact moving would have on somebody who's unable to accept a new home. I wonder if they have a constant, nagging feeling of being lost or unable to get home. I'm confident that you'll do great adjusting to university though.

  3. Jaim-

    This is a very interesting and important question. There is so much emotion, and so much of our being associated with just the concept of home. We're talking about metaphors in English, one of which is the nation as a "house" or home. Everyone wants to feel at home wherever they are. Home is the most comfortable idea there is. People are asked to "make yourself at home" when you step into another's place of residence. An interesting question of identity is the extent to which people identify with something as their home. A person may identify strongly with a home-city, but not give any thought to a home-state. I wonder what makes someone identify with somewhere as their home. And I can't imagine being thrust into such a new life that you have no concept of home at all. I can't imagine the feeling, though I bet it would feel something like asphyxiation. Just as one would gasp for air, I think a person without a concept of home would be in some form of panic. A home is so much of a base for everyday life.

    Anyway, sorry for my rambling. Your post is great :] And thought provoking, clearly.... ;)

  4. Jamie,

    That was a great post, as always. I'm so jealous you got to see the LiNK movie and meet with the Heartland Nomads! I LOVE LiNK and I'm sure the whole experience was incredibly moving. The idea of home and identity are ones that I struggled with a lot this summer as I got ready to move to Baltimore for college. I didn't know how I was going to be myself in a place where no one knew me. I was uncomfortable with the idea of going somewhere where I could redefine myself. If I could change it that easily, was I ever really living as the person I wanted to be? I couldn't understand how I had really liked and attached to the person I had become senior year of high school if I could change that without a second thought. Every time someone told me, "you're going to college? you can completely reinvent who you are," I shuddered a little and associated being myself with my first and only home. Could I really only be this person that I loved in Northbrook? But then I slowly began to realize that my home was within myself. I could be who I wanted, where I wanted, and I would be okay. A home is supposed to bring comfort, familiarity, love, and warmth. Being myself, who I was in Northbrook, was being home, not the fact that I was physically there. So yes, going to college will be scary and life altering, but if you know who you are, hold tight to your morals and beliefs, and stay close with those who help you feel at home in your own body, then you will be okay. You can go anywhere, and always be at home.

  5. Great post, Jamie!!
    First of all, I really enjoyed the LiNK presentation, so I wanted to thank you and your fellow leaders for putting that together. Secondly, I agree with Margot that the question of how your home affects your identity is very important and was a great choice for a blog topic. I really liked the questions that you had throughout your post because they really go me into it and thinking about the topic in terms of my own life. Great work bud.

    P.S. the picture is really cute and adds to the personality of your blog :]

  6. Jamie,
    Now I don't know why i haven't responded to your blog posts yet, because they are amazing. Yet this one in particular I was especially moved by especially the portion in which you talked about leaving home altering ones life and identy. Now I don't have a drastic departure from home rather I simply can relate to it on a personal level seeing as I'm at college (which is not home) and this has brought change, confusion, conflict, crisis, and a bunch of other adjectives to my life. Yet upon further examination leaving home is when one truly finds out whom they are.

  7. Jamie,
    I definitely agree with Alli that the picture added personality to your blog, and I'd like to add that I've noticed you taking a really new direction with your blog these past few posts, and I'm really liking it. It seems like you're developing your own blogging identity as you seek to answer questions on personal identity, which is really cool. And you're incorporating more global and humanitarian issues, which I think are a fantastic addition to a blog on identity. After all, can't we all identify as human? I, too, enjoyed the LiNK presentation and was equally inspired. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say about this and other important personal identity and world issues in the future. Your ideas are always sophisticated and new.-- Kate H

    Side note: You wrote, "What is it like to choose between a life of oppression and one as the victim of sex trafficking? "

    I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who would say that being a victim of sex trafficking is living a life of oppression. I got what you meant, but...

  8. Thanks so much for your comments Kate! And yes, I totally agree with you! Sex trafficking is 100% oppressive. I should have clarified. I was more thinking along the lines of a life of religious oppression within one's home country vs. venturing out into a new land and being trafficked. Definitely worth clarifying though, thank you!