It’s no secret that people are defined by their heritage. Think about it — one of the most common things that a person will ask when they are meeting someone new is “where are you from?” One’s lineage can often define who they are as a human, from how they live to where their values come from. Is this determining factor inevitable? Or can we separate ourselves from our heritage?
I know that in my family especially, I grew up with my parents placing a lot of emphasis on our heritage. My mother and father are both from the same country: Greece. We speak Greek in the house, celebrate all of the Greek holidays, and most importantly, eat Greek food. At this point, my ‘Greekness’ has almost become a defining characteristic of mine. So, in my situation, I have not at all separated from my heritage. In fact, one might say that I have even become my heritage in a way, even though I have lived in America for all my life. However, I don’t think that I am an isolated case; I have noticed that many of my friends also tend to embrace their heritage rather than trying to dissociate with it.
Today, multiple factors contribute to this growing sense of pride. Possibly the most influential component is the fact that since we were young, our generation has been taught that being different and unique is not only acceptable, but good. One might even say that having a distinctive lineage has become ‘cool’. We’re taught not to fear differences, in turn encouraging diversity. Additionally, DNA testing programs like ancestry.com and 23andMe are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, the amount of people participating in geneology tests more than doubled in 2017, and now exceeds 12 million users worldwide. This proves that people are beginning to become more interested in their backgrounds, therefore coming closer to their cultures rather than separating from them.
Adhering so closely to origins and heritage most likely stems from the fact that people are taught about their culture starting at a very young age. A study done by Brown University found that habits tend to remain unwavering after the age of nine. In other words, anything drilled into a child’s head before that age is likely to stick with them for the rest of their lives. Since our heritage is typically something that is embedded into our everyday routines from birth, it only makes sense that it would remain prevalent to us as teenagers. People are inclined to act the way that they have been brought up, which just makes our heritage that much more unavoidable.
In the end, traditions are highly difficult to stray from. After learning something early on in life, one becomes accustomed to a certain way of living and is likely to continue on that path. Ultimately, that is what makes our world so interesting. An abundance of cultures, each unique in their own way, helps to color the planet and make it more exciting every day. So, although it is hard to separate ourselves from our heritage, it is this heritage that is so important for making our world as great as it can be.
Graphics: Ellie Tsapatsaris