I was recently reminded of this lovely passage from Jessie Sholl’s memoir Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding. She’s sitting in an airplane on the tarmac waiting to take off for Italy:
My Italian teacher last semester used to say that it’s helpful, when learning a new language, to come up with a new “self” for that language, to think in terms of your “Italian self,” when speaking Italian. When he said it I was intrigued: I liked the idea of having an Italian self. I liked it a lot. But I’d forgotten about it until now.
Perhaps in Italy I could be a new person—I could be less anxious, less shy. More outgoing. I could finally stop caring so much about other people’s opinions of me. I could even be bug free.
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of an Italian self.
My Italian self does not let her secrets eat at her. My Italian self doesn’t even know what hoarding is. And why would she, when her life has never been touched by it? My Italian self had a lovely, idyllic childhood and as a result is bursting with self-esteem. Did my Italian self ride horses? She considers it …but no. My Italian self played tennis instead. Or maybe squash.
My Italian self is never angry, nor is she self-pitying; she is totally unfamiliar with the concept of self-doubt and has never felt even vaguely ratty or ragged next to well-groomed, well-dressed strangers. Wherever she finds herself is exactly where she belongs and the people around her are lucky to have this Italian Jessie.