My journey, Personal Development

I am Romanian

With time, I’ve come to realise that you don’t truly love yourself until you accept every single part of who you are. It’s sometimes surprising how many parts of ourselves we deny and reject without even realising. It’s only when you open up your heart to yourself that you start embracing every bit of yourself whether it is your body, race, gender, nationality, mental and physical limitations, quirkiness or any other particularity.

For a long time, I hated my condition as a woman. I rejected my gender and I wished many times that I was born a man. It took a man’s love to help me embrace my femininity and I wrote about this experience here. However, in this post, I wanted to talk about another part of me that I’ve rejected ever since I was a little girl.

I’ve been ashamed of being Romanian ever since I can remember. It all started out around 12 years old when I moved to Brussels with my family and joined Brussels American School. The first questions my colleagues asked me were: “Are you gay?” and “Are you a gypsy?” I barely spoke a word of English and the fact that I was Romanian wasn’t helping. Foreigners were immediately excluded and they ended up in a particular group of so called “losers”. The experience in this school was very similar to the bullying you see in most American high school movies. It was that raw,  real and hurtful.

From 5th grade to 10th grade, the word Romanian was strongly interlinked to being a Roma. There was a lot of prejudice around this label as there is still nowadays. But the labels didn’t stop there. As I went on to my university years, Romanian girls acquired a new label of being “easy and gold-diggers”. This one scared me the most. As I was already uncomfortable being a woman, now I was both a woman and a Romanian.

I spent most of my early adulthood battling these labels and avoiding by any means to “act” like a woman or a Romanian. Whatever that meant… Little by little I started hating Romanian traditions, Romanian food and deliberately started avoiding Romanians.

Unfortunately, these labels were further reinforced when I started working. Before entering the EU, Romanians had a hard time getting a work permit in Belgium and many of my job applications were rejected based on my nationality. It was during this time, that I decided to go back to Romania and embrace my nationality. However, things did not go as planned.

After 8 years of living in Belgium and denying a big part of who I was, I wasn’t fully ready to accept my nationality. During my stay in Romania, I was quickly knocked down by the “Romanian” mentality and lifestyle. Corruption, materialism, rudeness, lack of diplomacy, conservatism, narrow-mindedness, aggression, petty and competitive nature and judgmental attitudes were the only words to describe what I saw around me. Inflexibility and lack of tolerance towards imperfection blinded me from seeing the good things.

Working four years in Romania were enough to bring me into a deep depression and hatred towards my country and myself for ever wanting to go back there. I could not adapt, I could not see beyond the daily difficulties and there was nothing more that I wanted than to leave and never come back.

The day I got a job in Brussels, was one of the most memorable days of my life. Fleeing Romania felt like waking up from a long nightmare. It was the greatest escape of my life. It was my rebirth and chance to a second life. Only after I received my work permit, signed the employment contract and rented my first apartment, I was able to break down in tears and say: “I made it!” Until then, everything still seemed unreal.

Five years passed since then. Today, I am proud to say I am Romanian. So, what changed? What made me embrace a part of me, which I once hated with all my being?

The first step I took was to work on myself. I spent three years dissecting my past and understanding who I am. I took time to listen to my frustrations, anguishes and pain. I understood that I let others define me, rather than defining myself. I understood that the rejection from others, made me reject myself. I learned not to take rejection personally and not to let labels define who I am. And finally, I learned to accept and love myself as I am.

However, reaching out to myself was not enough. Wonderful Romanian people reached out to me during this time and helped me understand that not everyone is the same. Sometimes, it takes a whole village to raise a child. My family and three wonderful Romanian women showed me how wonderful it is to be both a woman and a Romanian. I no longer run away from my fellow citizens. I welcome them in my life and l am proud to be part of the Romanian community in Brussels.

However, everything changed when the tragedy in Colectiv happened and Romanians took the streets. I never felt more connected to my country and to my people than in that moment of tragedy and social awakening. I understood the exhaustion, the frustration, the struggle, the lack of perspective and the anger. I understood that they are also suffering as much as I once suffered in Romania. Seeing so many young, talented and active Romanian lives taken away made me realise that so many Romanians are victims of a corrupt society and a dysfunctional system.

And, unlike me, not all of them want to leave, have the strength or possibility to leave. Not all of them have been detached from their country for so long that they are able to leave their families and friends behind. Luckily, many of them still dare to hope. They still love and invest in Romania no matter how hard it may be.

And with this event, every label that I’ve created for Romanians faded away. Words such as: corruption, materialism, rudeness, lack of diplomacy, conservatism, narrow-mindedness, aggression, petty and competitive nature and judgmental attitudes are not attached to the Romanian nature. They describe human nature in general no matter the race, gender or nationality.

Now, I would love to brag and give you some positive adjectives about how great Romanians are, but this is not the point of this article. The point is to tell you that it is a journey in itself to embrace all of who you are. If there are parts of yourself that you reject, it is a good idea to stop and analyse. We deserve all our love, not just half of it.

I am everything I am today because I am a Romanian woman. Two wonderful Romanian parents raised me and I am lucky to have a Romanian husband with which I look forward to raising children who are proud of their nationality.

Photo credits: Anamaria Olaru

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12 Comments

  • Mihaela Lica Butler March 16, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Inspirational, Anamaria. To change misconceptions about Romania we have to first address our own misconceptions and prejudices.
    My advice for other people who probably feel now what you used to feel for so many years would be: be true to yourself, and to your roots. Do not pay attention to what others think about you. Their opinions are rooted in ignorance.

    Reply

    • anamaria March 17, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Thank you Mihaela! You couldn’t have said it any better! We first need to address our own misconceptions and prejudices. This is exactly the point.

      Reply

  • Vlad June 19, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Well done heartfelt blog post. Feel bad for fellow Romanians in Europe, where the perception towards those of us who chose to now be part of other societies/nationalities is negative. While I never knew how that must feel (as I’ve lived in the US where nobody knows anything – whether positive or negative – about Romania), am somewhat perplexed at how Europeans discriminate against Romanians.

    We all cope with immigration especially early on, I as well had a “what if?” Question in the back on my mind. What if I lived in Romania as an adult? What if I brought all my education and knowledge acquired in the US back to Romania? What if?

    Like you, had an opportunity to go back and try to live there for 2 years (without returning to the US). While those two years allowed me the greatest ‘win’ of my life – reconnecting with my high school sweetheart who later became my wife -, I absolutely hated it and never could re-adapt. Like you, felt the Romanian societety in our native country was ‘diseased’ (from the foreign-influenced music, to corruption, to the impersonal behavior of people in major urban centers like Bucharest, etc) and couldn’t wait to go ‘back home’. And yes, those 2 years made it crystal clear in my mind that “home” is California, not the country I was born and raised in, and had left a teenager ten years prior.

    Took a while to get back simply because my wife was so successful that she didn’t even want to consider moving to California with me. When she reluctantly agreed, I was out of here.

    While the Romanian culture, language and nationality will always be a part of me and my family, after 20+T years in the US, I proudly consider myself an American of Romanian descent. Unlike in Europe, this perception is widely respected in my adoptive home country – the USA.

    Reply

    • Anamaria September 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Thank you so much Vlad for sharing your experience. It’s interesting to see how other Romanians around the world feel about this issue. After Brexit, you can actually see how Europe is “working” at the moment. In GB, first they discriminated against the Polish, then the Romanians and then the immigration crisis started. It was enough to tip the boat over. However, I have Spanish friends here who told me that until they met me, they were very skeptical about Romanians. It’s hard to hear and swallow… But, we cannot carry these misconceptions and prejudices with us all the time. We have to let go at one point and realize that we are our own representation of our nationality, race and gender.

      Reply

  • Aurora Gheorghita November 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Mi-a plăcut articolul, o confesiune în urma unei revelații, faptul ca te-ai resemnat (poate) sa iți asumi / accepți naționalitatea într-o alta țara decât cea natala. tot e bine. Oricum e multa mai ușor sa-ti iubești țara si pe romani de la distanta decât trăind aici. Cei care își renega si urăsc țara cred ca sunt într-o mare confuzie, pentru ei conducătorii (vremelnici pe funcțiile lor) sunt tot una cu țara. E păcat totuși ca nu ai si varianta în limba romana a blogului, eu am redistribuit articolul tău pe FB, e bine sa il citească cit mai multi romani, mai ales cei care au ales sa rămână aici.

    Reply

    • Anamaria December 19, 2016 at 11:34 pm

      Aurora, iti multumesc mult pentru cuvintele tale! Apreciez foarte mult comentariul tau. Asa este… de la distanta poti vorbi cu detasare, dor si drag… insa sa traiesti in Romania este la fel de greu si de frustrant. Important este sa nu negam ceea ce suntem si sa nu ne dezicem de propria nationalitate. Vrem, nu vrem, face parte din noi si trebuie sa ne mandrim cu asta macar pentru romanii care sunt onesti si muncitori! Imi pare asa rau ca blogul nu este in limba romana. La inceput, l-am rugat pe tatal meu sa ma ajute cu traducerea in limba romana, dar se pierdea mult din modul in care m-as fi exprimat eu. Din pacate, nu am timp sa ma dedic blogului atat de mult cat as dori. Iar engleza imi vine mult mai la indemana in scris… Multumesc mult ca ai impartasit articolul meu cu prietenii tai de pe Facebook! Pe curand!

      Reply

      • Aurora Gheorghita January 1, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Mulțumesc si eu pentru ca ai răspuns comentariului meu. Eu ma bucur de fiecare data când aflu despre tineri romani stabiliți in străinătate care nu isi denigrează țara si, in felul lor, fac lobby cinstit si onest pentru țara lor.

        PS – Un mic amănunt, am fost colega tatălui tău in doua “reprize”, prima data, in cea mai frumoasa perioada, pentru mine, care a fost Mil-to-Mil.

        Reply

        • Anamaria January 23, 2017 at 11:37 pm

          Doamna Roman asa este? L-am intrebat pe tatal meu de dumneavoastra si mi-a confirmat! Si pentru el a fost o adevarata poveste misinea la Mil-to-Mil si imi amintesc de dumneavoastra in pozele de acasa. Cred ca a fost un proiect frumos unde au fost multe de invatat. Va transmit toate cele bune si ma bucur sa vad ca si dumneavoastra aveti un site http://www.ancaroman.ro. Sper sa va mearga bine! Vad ca e bine pus la punct! Va pup!

          Reply

  • Natalie Portugal December 1, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    I love this. True self acceptance is a difficult lesson we all need to learn.
    It makes me sad to hear this version of BAS. I had no idea you or anyone felt that way and I personally did not dislike anyone just because of where they were from. I’m sorry that happened to you. I hope I was not a participant.

    Reply

    • Anamaria December 19, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you for your kind words Natalie. It means a lot to me. Indeed true self acceptance is probably the hardest things to do. A lot of bullying happened at BAS. I was truly one of the lucky ones. I shouldn’t even complain. Others had it worst. But we were all kids and sometimes it’s very hard to control bullying as it’s mainly done in the hallways. The important thing is to be more vocal about these issues and stop it whenever we see it happening.

      Reply

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