Detached: My Relationship With Gozo

My fellow earthlings, I am back. Yes, I took another break from my blog.

I’ve realized that this space has more value than I’m actually aware of – there’s so much I can write here, I just need to come up with the ideas. Trust me, writing the blog articles isn’t the hard part.

One of the topics I want to discuss is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately – a big change I’ve noticed in my life, and that is, my relationship with Gozo.

Most people who I grew up with during my teenage years know that my relationship with Gozo is rocky. For a long time, I hated the place. There was a time that I was confused about who I was and how Gozo affected that.

And although the biggest shift in my life happened when I went back to America in 2019, another major shift was precisely the moment I came back to Gozo after that trip – and I hated Gozo all over again.

It’s been two and a half years since then. I’ve been through the pandemic just like everyone else and that was a big shift in our lives. I finished my higher education. Got myself a full time job. I’ve grown as a person and become a young adult. And my perspective of Gozo has changed a lot.

I now live in Malta. I really feel it. I don’t feel “Maltese” like the Maltese and I don’t know the Maltese society that much, but I do feel a certain involuntary detachment from Gozo. I’m not there anymore. I only visit Gozo on the weekends. I’m not up to date with what goes on in Gozo. I don’t really mix with the Gozitan crowd anymore. And I don’t really want to know what’s going on or who’s doing what.

A part of me feels some pain at the involuntary detachment. Another part of me knows that the detachment had to happen for me to grow and get out of the comfort Gozo provides.

Yet what I do acknowledge is that the detachment has made me appreciate Gozo even more. I look forward to heading over to that tiny island on the weekends. I want to see my parents and my Nanna and my cat and my puppy. I want to feel the sun on my face and walk in the countryside where I live. I appreciate the peace and tranquility Gozo provides. Yes, Gozo does give me peace. It’s the break I need from a hectic week of working in Malta.

And I’m looking forward to this summer because I have my life in Malta which I am in control of and a small taster of a Gozitan summer which is enough for me. I want to go to the feasts and get ice-cream at Marsalforn. I want to have drinks at Gebuba in the pjazza and enjoy being at my town, Nadur. And I want to go to the beach at Hondoq and Dahlet Qorrot (the only two beaches I go to because they’re in Nadur and Qala). Because Gozo is familiar, but not too much anymore. I’ve grown out of Gozitan society.

And I don’t mind the distant familiarity – I respect it.

When people ask me whether I prefer Gozo or Malta, I always tell them: “I’ve got the best of both worlds. I like having my independence in Malta yet when the craze gets too much, I run off to Gozo for some down-time. And when Gozo starts to make me feel a bit trapped, it’s Monday morning and I head off to work in Malta.”

Gozo isn’t perfect. And my relationship with the island is still complicated but I don’t hate it as much as I used to.

There are moments when Gozo gets too much for me and I have to get away. There were even times when Gozitan people (and family too) tried to force their opinions onto me even though I live a certain life in which I keep to myself and keep my distance. I don’t like these things. And I don’t like those people.

It makes me feel like Gozo is forcing itself back into my life and that makes me feel very upset because I’d rather be friends with Gozo and shake hands than live in the same house and hate each other.

My life isn’t in Gozo anymore and I’m completely ok with that.

Because yes, Gozo and I are friends. We disagree a lot. We definitely aren’t the same. And even though there have been plenty of painful memories, I’d rather forget them than fret over them. I don’t like who I was as a teenager growing up in Gozo and I had to go out in the world to find who I am and I’m proud to say that I’ve discovered a lot (and there’s plenty more).

Living in Malta has also made me feel awkward at times being around Maltese people. My colleagues at FreeHour might not have realized it, but it took me months to be fully comfortable working full time there. Now, I’m totally comfortable working at FreeHour because I realized that they accept me and they’re all good people.

Initially, I wasn’t used to being around Maltese people – because I’m Gozitan, not Maltese.

Yes, there is a difference. I don’t like to identify myself as Maltese with people because I don’t think it fully represents my identity. I’m Gozitan and it’s taken me years to say that without feeling any pain.

I don’t act or talk like my Maltese colleagues. I only talk Gozitan with Gozitans or people I’m comfortable with and anyone that’s heard me talk Gozitan can vouch for me that my dialect is thick. I’m not even capable of talking in the standard Maltese accent! And quite frankly, I don’t want to. I talk Gozitan and I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t see anything wrong with how I talk – I’m not less than anyone. I’m not going to pretend to be Maltese because that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Accepting that I’m half-Gozitan has been a long long process. I guess I had to go back to America to let the American inside me breathe again and that made me discover my hybridity. I’m not a full American (as much as that pains me) and I definitely don’t feel like I’m proper Gozitan even though I know it has rubbed off on me a lot.

Embracing my hybridity meant to be able to understand myself – and accepting that I am Gozitan too.

Ten years ago, I didn’t think like this. I didn’t think I could ever think like this! Yet, here I am.

I can’t get rid of Gozo and maybe I don’t want to. I’m still in the process of growing and that’s ok.

What I do know is that I am both and as confusing as it can get at times, I only need to understand myself for myself to better myself.

The Gozitan in me isn’t so bad after all. The American is full of pride (but that’s cause we’re too patriotic, nothing wrong with that) and it has learned to get along with the Gozitan.

Now that the pandemic is over, I’m getting back into society, mainly Gozitan society, and I feel awkward sometimes. There were times that I get freaked out at parties with too many Gozitans – I’m not used to being around too many Gozitans.

But last weekend was a break through for me – I went to Nadur Carnival and ran into a lot of people I hadn’t seen in forever and was so happy to see them and talk to them. I felt ok. I wasn’t awkward. That’s a major improvement for me.

So yeah, I may live in Malta but Gozo’s always there. And it’s not so bad anymore. I can still live in my space, even with Gozo occasionally there too.

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