I’ve been thinking of so many things. Trying to make sense of my place in higher ed. Trying to make sense of my place in a society that is becoming increasingly anti-intellectual and insular. If you watch the news.
I don’t know if I am different, but I have always felt I am different. Growing up, there seemed to be a clear divide between myself and my peers. I was born, I opened my mouth, with a question. I am reflective, always searching for new lines of inquiry. My critical thinking skills were apparent from an early age. I have distinct memories of my kindergarten and first grade teachers warily accepting my answers in class. Warily addressing my comments. The things I would say. My classmates have memories of this same girl– questioning, curious, bold. Somehow, this was seen as malicious, my love of questions. My seeking soul. As a six year old, learning like a sponge, I did not have malicious intent. I only sought data, facts to grab onto, something to pull me out of the sinking ship that was my world where everything was ambiguous, unknown, unanswerable.
When will I see my father again? I don’t know. Will we have running water in the morning? I don’t know. Will we ever stop feeling sad? I don’t know.
So maybe that’s it. My difference. Just my mind, my whirring brain, my rich inner life. Seeking words and moments and knowledge. I don’t know. But I wonder too how much of that difference can be attributed to my latin-ness. The blood in my veins that comes from the mountains, the desert, the valleys of Mexico and the rivers of unknown America. I don’t know. The shape of my last name that comes from Spain. That came across the ocean and scattered out, and caught my ancestors. I don’t know. I have loyalty cards, membership cards, to clubs I have never been to, but whose ceremonies and social cues I know. What then? I don’t know.
How much of my struggle, of my search, has just been me, trying to fit in. Trying to blend in, because I am different. In what way, I can’t exactly pinpoint, but in a way that is significant and has shaped me and continues to raise it’s little sharp head from time to time. Like when a white friend mentions her offense, her tan parents, her boring partner, her lonely life. When something, anything, jolts up in me, strikes a chord, and I have that inner quiet argument with myself: do I say something? Do I show this side of myself? Whatever that side is that has a different, opposite response, opposing knowledge to what is being presented to me as common fact, common, familiar, all-encompassing experience? Do I counter that with my own?
Do I remind the people who have never felt different that they are in fact different?
What if I instead desire being liked, being loved, and am tired of the wariness. What if the constant reminders of being different are too much. What if these have in fact drowned out, overcome, overpowered my desire to be loved? Then what? The boundaries I walk between being loved and loving myself. Between caring for others and maintaining myself.
Do others trump the self? Does the self trump the others? Neither seems quite right.