How do you define yourself?
I find myself constantly struggling to place labels on myself. Am I a writer, a poet, journalist, feminist or Greek woman?
The one in particular I have been struggling with is my identity as a Greek woman.
From the time I turned 11, my mother and father separated and I moved with my dad and four brothers from Elyria, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) to Warren, Ohio.
Along with moving schools, I also moved into the Greek community of Warren.
Other than when I was six-months old and I was baptized at the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Warren, Ohio, I didn’t have too much contact with my fathers side of the family or my Greek heritage. The majority of my Greek family has lived in Warren since immigrating to America in the 1960’s. My dad has one sister, my thea, who was also born in Greece and is my godmother.
After the move, I was mostly surrounded by my thea and yiayia while growing up, who along with my dad, spoke fluent Greek. As well as going to the Greek church while growing up (which I didn’t particularly enjoy doing), I would go to our annual Greek Festival that was down the street from where I lived.
Looking back on it now, I realize that I didn’t really fully interact with Greek culture as much as I could have. I don’t speak fluent Greek like the older generation of my family and I would usually dread going to church services. The events in which I appreciated the most tended to be when I went to family-oriented events and activities. This realization made me feel like I was disconnected from my Greek identity and more invested with my American identity.
Ever since coming to Denison last year, I’ve further appreciated how often I’ve grown up around Greek culture and its influence. When I’m here at University, I feel more disconnected from family and thus want to invest myself more in Greek culture. At Denison I haven’t actively sought out opportunities or individually researched or initiated my own individual efforts to immerse myself into Greek culture. I feel like I identify only with a small portion of my Greek heritage and although its part of my identity, I don’t identify with the Greek religion. When I attempted to attend services, I found that I couldn’t relate to the old-fashioned viewpoint of the Greek Orthodox religion in comparison to Christianity.
When I heard of a Denison seminar course last Spring called “Odysseus in America” which explored modern American Greek identities, I wanted to take it so I could further my understanding of my own heritage. Although I was previously aware prior to this course that I haven’t been fully connecting with my Greek identity, I wanted to understand the community of Greek Americans. Being separate from home at Denion has created an urge in me to further research and identify with my Greek roots.
Before this semester started, a group of 14 students and I traveled to Athens, Greece and the island of Aegina. Going on this trip didn’t only make me think of my Greek family back at home, but further enhanced my viewpoint on identity, life and my viewpoint on travel.
A part of the trip in particular that stood out to me was climbing up the hill to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. During the climb up, my peers and I walked around countless examples of the evolution of Greece and the people. From viewing the ancient olympic museum to turning the corner to find the ancient ruins on the hill overlooking the entirety of the city, I couldn’t feel more like I was at home. I could almost feel how I am connected to the place, as if I was supposed to be in that place at that moment. That day, a great friend of mine said to me that everything happens because you allow it to. In that moment, I allowed myself to take in the scene, reminding myself to take in the good in life once presented with it.
So what do I identify as? Whatever I please.
Liz Anastasiadis ‘21 is a creative writing major with a concentration in narrative journalism from Warren, Ohio.