Chameleon

When you come from multiple worlds and communities that rarely intersect-
Don’t lose appreciation for your mentality.
You may survive differently in different places.
You may have to focus on physically surviving when those around you are materialistically thriving.
You may have to focus on emotionally surviving when those around you are manipulative and conniving.
You may have to focus on spiritually surviving when those around you live in a state of constant denying.
(I realize I haven’t been posting as much real talk as I used to- and I miss it.)

I posted this status a year ago from today, and thought it was worth sharing for my intersectional friends out there battling multiple battles on various grounds.

I started of my life journey in a homophobic, fatphobic, conservative community that strictly screamed Pro-Life over all other political issues. We were for immigration rights only because the majority of our community members were directly affected by them. We popped babies out like Pez dispensers and married our first high school sweethearts because it’s considered the norm.

I then went to a school that was pro-queer, pro-choice, and full of worldly distractions like drugs and money. I realized that I had an opportunity to absorb and transform lifestyles I had never encountered before, and gratefully grasped at the chance. I found myself conflicted between defending my countrified, small-town upbringing to these seemingly cooler inner city kids…

I started my college years off in Miami, where I learned to avoid eye contact with expensive restaurant hecklers, and how to glorify one specific body type above all others. I found out that there were groups within immigrant communities with vendettas toward others for coming into the country with more privilege and accessibility to assistance and legality. I learned that there were kids that grew up with exposure to vast amounts of culture, and I gave up trying to defend my upbringing as the “right” and “wholesome” environment. I began to expand my sexual prowess and gain confidence in what body parts society praised, while shaming the parts of myself that did not fulfill preferences and expectations.

I then continued onto Providence for school, where I was met with entirely different body standards and style preferences. I was confused. I struggled with having been the lightest shade in my environment of Latinx and Caribbean peoples to now being one of the darkest shades in my new environment of Caucasians and East Asians. I learned to stop greeting people I did not know in public places, and adjusted myself to the stereotypical East Coast attitude of minding my own business and avoiding eye contact with anyone outside of that. I learned about feminism and progressive politics, (while fighting to hold onto my clearly outdated ideas,) and eventually realized where I had been bullied within my intersectional identities by an all-seeing “other.” I learned that it was okay to accept criticism and change.

At one point, I went to Mexico for a semester to address my own insecurities and fears of never being “enough” of a Mexican or American. And I had it pounded into me by all Mexican and international students that I met that I surely had the privileged short stick in identities. That I could never be considered a true Mexican. That Americans are the worst. And I found myself embodying my own self-contempt in my situations and choices over the years- even those that had been out of my control. I gave up trying to defend any part of myself, my life, while I was there.

When I returned to Providence, I returned with a burning fire, creating work about all the disagreements and pain and anger I had felt for all of my years, living with the perceived binaries within myself. Living with the external judgements of various people who had nearly nothing in common with one another.

I went back to my hometown after 6 years of travel and found it nearly impossible to sit in any conversation or gathering without a sense of contempt. Contempt at the language, the slurs, and the ableist, sexist, racist jokes that came easily from the mouths of my loved ones. I found myself in the position of the lofty worldly outsider I had once loathed in my local circles. I found myself judging and arguing and feeling physically sick at the expectations and excuses I had once used to justify my own prejudices. And it became too much for me.

I tried to escape to the west coast, and was promptly redirected by my accident to the Midwest. The last place I had ever wanted to go.

While I’ve been here, I’ve dealt with the familiar racism I grew up on; but within a passive-aggressive sheath that is unfamiliar to me. I’ve learned that the Midwest-niceness stereotype is a convenient excuse for their blatant ignorance to the plight of others. And I have met fiercely socialist groups within my town that do battle on behalf of minorities and shit on the old school bigots of the area. It’s an odd place to be- where I have to pretend to give a shit about respectability politics because polite discourse is valued over call-out culture and stating one’s feelings straight-up. Where I have to constantly and explicitly explain myself to white feminists and casual racists alike. Where I have to navigate spaces while locals star at me in distrust, exoticism, or contempt. And I’ve found myself adjusting yet again for the sake of survival, while plotting my next great escape, hopefully out west again…

I’ve become a spiritual chameleon because my body can’t afford to warp. I’ve learned to reframe situations in order to get what lessons I need from them. I’ve learned how to take disagreements and defend my standpoints. And I’ve learned that my standpoints, myself, my essence, can also change.

Hopefully, one day, I will find a place that feels like home. Where I can thrive, rather than survive.

May you be well, May you be happy, May you be free from suffering

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