I just knew the type of person I wanted to be.
As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I never knew how to respond. For years I would answer with anything just to move on from the subject. The people around me weren’t convinced. Through out the years they made suggestions and questioned what I would eventually do. As my 18th birthday approached, panic officially set in. I constantly felt anxious and depressed for failing to meet expectations.
The summer before college I entertained the idea of becoming an attorney. I doubled up on Adderall and really buckled down. For a while, it actually worked. I made deans list and had my sights set on Columbia Law School. The Adderall began to catch up with me during my sophomore year as I was finishing my internship at the State Attorney’s Office.
I spent months in a windowless office organizing a mountain of boxes filled with files from a famous homicide case from the nineties. Once a week the other interns and I would go to the courthouse and observe regular court proceedings. I remember looking around the room and having my stomach drop because I knew it wasn’t meant for me. After a week of being in my apartment my mother decided to drive over. She sat on my bed brushed her hand through my hair as I lay there and weeping. I no longer had the next five years of my life planned.
During that winter break I took that time to reboot. I went out with friends. I danced. I laughed. I stayed out all night and in that moment I was fearless. I found myself in cannabis rotations that placed me in circles with people I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Each time the blunt or joint made it’s way around the room you could feel the persona’s slowly fade. The dialogue began carry substance as dove head first into each perspective.
I listened carefully and felt a special bond with each one that took the time to share who they were and where they had been. Some stories had my cheeks sore as I struggled to catch my breath; others left knots in the pit of my stomach. My mind expanded with each interaction and while I didn’t always agree with each perspective, I respected their right to have it. I offered my insight when asked but I mostly listened.
While listening I learned a lot about myself. I realized just how sheltered I had been my entire life. I don’t mean that in the context of my parents being strict, even though they were. I was so blissfully unaware of the perspective of others. I never took the time to think how they have fought and endured. It is easy to lose your accountability as a human when you are raised in a culture that encourages an “Us vs. Them” mentality.
From that point on I took on life with a fresh perspective. I believe it is human nature to be selfish and self-serving. I do also believe that what separates us from other animals is that fact we have the ability rationalize. I’ll admit to being someone who constantly jumps to conclusions and letting my ego get in the way.
Restrictions or not, I grew up as a cis gender Latina (who is constantly mistaken for a white woman) who has lived a life of privilege. While I have faced challenges personally, I feel it’s my obligation as a person to place my time and efforts into being an ally to those who have been treated as second-class citizens too long.
I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up and at this point in my life I’m okay with that. I just knew the type of person I wanted to be. I want to be someone who could empathize with you. I want to be someone who has the audacity to stand with those who’ve been mistreated and weather the storm with them.
At times I feel alone and feel as though no one could possibly relate. I’m sure everyone feels this way at some point. I encourage you to challenge me. I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve gone through but I’m here to tell you that you aren’t alone.