Life is all about negotiating your self-perception with how you’re perceived. Believe it or not.
Navigating ambiguity and navigating assumptions.
I’m not open to whatever those assumptions may be, but I’d argue that I’ve tried to be prepared not to know. It’s better if I don’t know…better if I don’t have a self-fulfilling prophecy dancing around in my head.
I’ve spent the last few years much more conscious of that tension between who I think I am, who I want to be, and how I’m perceived. I’m trying to be prepared to figure it out. To live my way into the question.
I’ve been lucky (?) to have had experiences in my life that have informed my understanding of how others perceive me. I had an early understanding of my biracialness and was able to articulate it as so in a safe space with my mother (my blood before I was blood) where being mixed was okay. I had the opportunity to grow up with people very unlike me–ethnically, socioeconomically–in almost every identity category, I walked lines my peers did not. They consistently challenged my understandings. They made me question that I saw what I thought on the horizon.
And being a woman, I’ve been hurt (physically or emotionally) by almost every male I’ve encountered. My worth has been challenged, at times dismissed, consistently throughout my life. This has provided me with a pool of resilience that at times seems like it should be drained. But I balance the dismissal of my personhood with the dismissal of my heritage, and I feel better. I feel less alone with these sides of me, who can relate to one another. I recognize as I’ve branched out into the world that there are people like me, but it’s been comforting to know too, why I so often strike out with some. Like the cheese, I often stand alone. I have been picked last for teams, and it hurts, but most times, I’m able to find a lesson in it. I’m able to find my safe space inside of me and move on. I’m able to recognize how those moments say more about the executor than about me.
My first time in graduate school, some of my peers, who identify as black, raised concerns they had about our graduate program. They pointed to incidents of bias and prejudice and wanted to have discussions and make their points regarding racial discrimination heard. We were called together as a department to discuss. I didn’t get it. I felt like, yes, I’ve experienced all this too as a Hispanic white woman. I was dismissed and it hurt and for a long time I had feelings about it. Finally, one day, it clicked for me. That was an early #blacklivesmatter event. I couldn’t grasp it then, but I get it now.
We are always growing in our understanding. We always have the potential to reshape and reform. I shine the light on my ignorance, even though a lot of times that light should be swinging out the other way–onto another. I’m not an expert, but I’m comfortable in my identity. I’m comfortable letting the light in.