As human beings we have many pieces that make up our identities and our identities make us who we are. Since I was less than a year old, I have spent the entirety of my summers in the place my grandparents were born, Montenegro, surrounded by my family, culture, and pure happiness. This special place and the experiences I have had there have helped me develop as a person and has become apart of my identity. Over the years, everyone in my life has changed in one way or another; we have all matured and become new people. But one thing remains that takes me back and allows me to remember my past: my house in Montenegro. It brings memories of good times and is a constant reminder that I always have a second home where my heart is, it represents the highlights of my life. The many experiences I have had in Montenegro throughout my life has shaped my identity and allowed me to see the world through a different perspective.
Monumental moments in my life occurred in my home away from home like my first steps, learning to swim, many birthdays, and learning to ride a bike. Most of my childhood memories take place in Montenegro, like playing with my cousins and speaking in broken English to try and communicate with them long before we all learned to speak the other’s language. Going to my aunt’s house every night after the beach to eat dinner, ride bikes, and spending time with my cousins and the friends we had made is still a tradition. Day trips to amazing places like Budva, Porto Montenegro, and Sveti Stefan made my time there even more memorable. Even as a small child, my parents would take me to amazing places that allowed me to be experienced in different aspects of the culture and language. I had many opportunities to experience the world at a young age and see the way different people live their lives which made me both grateful and conscious of how other people live.
As I got older and matured, I made new memories and learned new lessons that made me wiser and a better person, I learned to be more adventurous, speak Albanian, Serbian, and understood the value of family. In recent years, the things I have done taught me to take more risks. Going cliff jumping in Albania and climbing mountains in Montenegro made me realize that without taking risks you will never see the best parts of life. The language was something that I had picked up over the years, being completely surrounded by the two languages from both people and music. This allowed me to be fluent in Albanian and conversational in Serbian, which has enabled me to be more in touch with the place my family came from and allowed me to communicate with my family easily. With being able to fully communicate with my non-English speaking family, I also understood the importance of spending time with family. Many of my cousins that live far from me or live in Montenegro I only get to see once a year during the summer so we spend almost everyday together when I visit. Our favorite memories consist of going to the beach, going out into town, our walks to the river, our midnight drives, and simply hanging out at my house just to watch the stars on the balcony. These are the things I think back to when I’m missing my family and I know I will see them soon so we can do the same things again.
Thinking back to my childhood and to recent summers, I see a difference in myself and a development in my identity. But one thing has always been there and stayed the same: my home. Being in Montenegro for so many summers allowed me to have many new experiences that developed my identity and it eventually became a big part of it. As a child I learned how lucky I was to be in such an amazing place and how grateful I should be to have to opportunity to. This has stuck with me because seeing people that have so much and seeing people that have so little puts you in a position to see the world differently. As I got older, the things I experienced made me better both personality-wise and identity-wise. Doing things that may seem crazy made me more of a risk-taker and let me see and appreciate the natural beauty of the earth. Learning new languages made me smarter, more cultured, and more family-oriented. Spending and enjoying my time with my family that I don’t see often made me understand the true value of family. Seeing photos of us in or photos they send of me of my home makes me nostalgic of the times we spent together. The things I have learned, the places I have been to, and the people I have met in Montenegro have all impacted and become apart of my identity.