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What exactly is my true identity? Coming from a completely Anglophone family, but attending a French school since JK, I find it utterly impossible to answer this question correctly. I often find myself wondering why one’s language is so important. Why must people fight over a simple way of communicating? It was not so long ago that I discovered that speaking French is far more than communicating in a different language.
As I got myself ready for a very symbolic day, I caught a glimpse of my green and white outfit in the mirror. I looked absolutely ridiculous with my fluorescent green wig, my white skirt and my extreme, overdone makeup. Though I knew people would look at me strangely, I was proud. There wasn’t an ounce of embarrassment in my body. Who cares what other people think of my attire today anyways? So, I pranced up the stairs gaily,
“Why in the world are you dressed that way?” asked my mother.
“It’s the Franco-Ontarien flag day today, mom”, I responded, almost disdainfully. Had I not told her about this a million times already?
“But you’re English…” she reproached me.
“I’ve been going to a French school for 12 years now. I think I have the right to celebrate.” interrupted her, stalking outside to wait for my bus. How could she tell me such a thing? I spoke just as much French as the next person? ARGH! She could frustrate me so.
While I waited for my bus, many cars honked at me, obviously amused by my attire. They probably had no clue what the vivid green and white clothes on my body meant. They probably wondered if it was already Halloween. I’m almost positive they would tell everyone at home or at work of the hilarious sight they saw on their way to the office today.
When I got to school, I was – surprisingly – the only one dressed for the occasion. My History approached me as soon as I walked through the doors, asking me to say a speech at the raising of the new flag in town. I wondered why he asked me, the most Anglophone student in the school, to do this. I agreed, as usual, wondering how on Earth I would come up with something so demanding in such a short period of time. I only had half an hour for crying out loud! He handed me a pre-written, pre-used speech and told me to just use that one. I was relieved that I didn’t have to bust my brains to think of something myself.
So, I went through the speech a hundred times, reading the lies aloud. My grandparents didn’t fight for my rights as a French-Canadian! They were in England at that time anyways! They were probably fighting against them, for crying out loud! How could I possibly speak these hideous non-truths in front of four thousand people? Well, there was no time left. This would just have to do.
I walked up to the podium, breathing unnaturally heavily. My heart was bursting out of my chest, my throat combusting in flames. Would somebody give me some water already? Was that too much to ask for? Why was everybody staring at me? Oh God, I couldn’t do it. Everyone went silent, staring up at the little English girl. I knew what must have been running through their minds: “What is she so proud about? She can hardly speak a sentence without messing it up.” “What a loser. Who dresses like that for such an occasion?” Why had I agreed to this? I was just making people angry. They obviously didn’t understand my true source of pride.
I then began saying my speech, trying very hard to focus on the words and not the babbling audience, the giggling spectators. When I spotted my history teacher, he smiled up at me, beaming with pride. That’s when I realized that no one else mattered. M. Duval was proud and so was I. It didn’t matter that my mother couldn’t care less, or that the audience seemed to hate every bone in my body. So, I blissfully finished, saying each word with devotion and encouragement.
When I was finished, the crowd burst into applause, the journalists plunged on me like vultures waiting for a hopeless animal to die. That’s when I knew that even though the speech was not mine, it still represented how I truly felt, deep down inside. I may have been using someone else’s words, but I spoke them with my own passion, my own pride, and most of all, with my own experiences.
At that moment I knew what my true identity was. I knew what this day represented in my life. At that moment, I was bursting with pride. Out of all the French kids in my school, I was chosen to speak about my pride as a Franco-Ontarian. I was chosen to represent the thousands of Francophone people in my community. I, the least French speaking person in the school, was chosen to share my experiences, to inspire others’ pride. At that moment, I knew that even though I was English by blood and flesh, I was Francophone by mind and soul. I knew that no matter what people said about my origins, I would still consider myself a proud Franco-Ontarian. I also knew that I would never give up on my language and that it would always have its place in my heart.
Ever since that remarkable day, I have asked to be served in French everywhere I go. I also communicate in French as often as I can. I now know the importance of not only speaking French, but of being proud to have such a rich heritage in my being. One’s true identity is found within the soul, not within their roots. A passport or a driver’s license do not represent ones true self. It was on September 25th 2008 that this knowledge entered my mind.