Photo: Flickr / Steve Snodgrass

Mixed up

I was born in London to parents of different cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds, into a family where at least four generations have been migrants and minorities. I have myself lived in six different countries growing up. Throughout my own childhood, and in my conversations with children, youth and adults with a similar upbringing to my own, some themes always stand out. These include feeling forced into a definition of home and belonging which either does not fit, or only tells part of the story. Another dilemma is the feeling of having to ‘pick sides’ and show loyalty to one set of values, one pre-defined group, or one set of ideals. All of which can feel very unnatural to cross-cultural kids, who internalise and live by several sets of ideas, languages and values, shifting seamlessly between those that apply within different contexts. The idea behind this poem is to highlight the need for cross-cultural kids to be able to define themselves, and not to restrict them to a part of their identity. After all, their intercultural competence is a major and much-needed asset in our time, which should be celebrated and nurtured, not restricted.


Mixed Up

They say;

half and Half,

quarter this, part That.

Born here, but from There.


They ask;

What, Where,

never Who.


They insist,

whilst pointing in opposite directions;

this is True,

this is Right,

that is Wrong,

go Here,

stay away from There.


They claim;

you are one of Us,

or you are one of Them.


I am no Riddle,

no Puzzle,

no Puppet,

or a Problem to solve.

My loyalties and opinions not things

to be Placed

on one Side.


why not Double,

why not Whole?

why not Neutral,

why not All?