Today I had an interesting discussion with one of the people going through the program I direct at the ANC office. He's interning in a Congressional office and a group of us went down to Richmond today for a picnic at the Armenian church down there.
Anyway, on the way back, we had a long talk about a bunch of things, but he asked me a question that took me by surprise. He asked (in all good intensions) if I was involved in anything outside of the Armenian world. In otherwords, do I do anything at all that has nothing to do with Armenia. I was surprised to realize that my answer was no. Aside from having a few friends from school who I keep in touch with via e-mail, and one friend from my old job who I still talk to once in a while, my entire life revolves around Armenia.
I remember a time back in school that my life revolved around graphic design, I was one of the more involved people in my college, I was friends with everyone at school, my neighbors, and so many other people that had nothing to do with Armenia.
So he asked me what happened to all that and it was then that I realized moving to Armenia for the breif time that I did had completely shifted my priorities. It was then that I realized I didn't have to keep up this act of being something I'm not. I'm a graphic designer, yes. Do I care to succeed as a designer in the US? I did until I realized I didn't have to... when I realized my path is to move to Armenia.
He understood and didn't judge me, which I appreciated, but I think this is something that quite a few people struggle with... this expectation of having a life outside of being Armenian. All my life I battled with two identities, and I think at some point, I just gave up on it. Some people struggle and end up choosing their American identity, which is fine. I think my brother pretty much went that route.
American-Armenians are facing a very big challenge that doesn't exist much elsewhere, such places as Lebanon, Iran, Syria, etc., because they stick together and have no choice but to maintain their culture. America poses a different challenge. To stay Armenian, to balance your life and share your time between school, friends, career, and the Armenian community, volunteer work, hai tahd, and the struggle to stay Armenian, whatever that may be, can be a blessing and a curse. Some might think I'm anti-American. I'm not. I just think I'm fortunate to have discovered what I was meant to do.
By the way, here's a sneak preview of some of the photos from AYF Olympics that will appear in the Armenian Weekly special 16 page insert in this week's issue.