My mom encouraged me to do DNA testing several weeks ago. She had hers tested and while there were no surprises — a preponderance of Eastern European — she wondered how my father’s genetic makeup would come down to me with his Italian and Eastern European roots.
I have always considered myself Italian, mostly because the Italian side of the family was by far larger and more present in my childhood. The names, traditions, ways of living day to day… they were most recognizably Italian despite a broader mixture of ancestral heritage. My dad’s mother took on the Italian ways despite her Austrian and Eastern background and my mother did the same despite hers. So we kids were groomed to adopt the identity as well. And we did.
My DNA report came back yesterday, and low and behold I am only 21% Italian while the Eastern ancestry is more than 50% and with a sprinkling of other things. An eye opener. And a challenge!
The results got me thinking about my upbringing. It seems that there were many opportunities to be other than who we really were. I remember childhood experiences where inauthenticity was the thread woven into so many areas of my life. Indeed, I was born into a world that could not find it in its heart to celebrate who I was; out of the womb the messages I received were to be someone else, someone more acceptable in a society that was ignorant about diversity. And now learning of the DNA and how my family valued almost to the exclusion of others a culture that wasn’t at all the largest part of who they were, seems ironic and quite telling.
I can appreciate how a more dominant force, whether it be culture or something else, might intentionally predominate. Sometimes it even has to be that way to avoid chaos, or worse. But as we wake up and become more aware, and strive to reintegrate and to live authentically, we must always remember that all aspects of who we are must be honored in equal celebration.
I had a two friends when I was younger. Twins. One of their parents was Jewish and the other Christian. They were raised in a blended home. Although I was young there was something about that idea that felt very comfortable and beautifully insightful into the greater part of who all the family members were. I wonder now why my family did not embrace the diversity that made us up. Maybe it’s one reason I have always been drawn to people who celebrate their diversity whatever it is. A reaction formation of sorts; I seem to go out of my way to accept others as they are even when they do not accept themselves.
While I don’t have the answers from my family and may never, I do know that I am grateful that my own experiences have given me the inspiration to (re)Discover and to celebrate who I really am. And it has become my life’s work to help others to do the same. So, as with all of life’s experiences, my circumstances — no matter what they may have been and are today — gift me with all I need to find and to live my authenticity. And it is the same for you. Can you see it and accept the challenge?
With blessings and great gratitude,
from Únion de San Antonio, Jalisco, MX
enroute to Querétaro, MX
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