Learning to express myself

September 30, 2020 2:34 PM

a crown icon and the words "rising voices award winner"
Writing Through the Distance logo. Photo courtesy of WriteBoston.

Writing Through the Distance logo. Photo courtesy of WriteBoston.

"One white sheep, two white sheep, three . . . black sheep!”. A lullaby made for putting the young to sleep, but for me, it is a curse that keeps me up at night. The girl Penelope with a pig nose was hidden away because she was different, just as I hide away because I am different. The emotions and themes this lullaby conveys help explore the light in me, but my multiracial identity separates and outcasts me from the herd. In time I will find my confidence that will let me leave my darkness in the past.

I love that my two existences gave me a taste of different cultures: from my mom's side I learned how to speak Spanish and make pasteles, and from my dad's side I learned about love by learning to wrestle and sing. But people would only see my confusing hair, skin, and background. I would hear “What are you?” “Why do you have that name?", and I would always refuse to answer because it is too much to explain. I have learned from the non-stop abuse of being misunderstood that nobody knows me better than myself, and I realized that the struggle of accepting my two sides just makes me human.

My diverse mind had its voice, but I felt I could only think and not speak. Often I kept quiet in school, at home and around family and friends. From my being silent to having untamed hair, to my skin and my stuttering, I felt people were assuming I was different or a nobody. As a silent being in a room of giants with loud minds, I learned about various personalities I couldn’t recognize myself in. So, how could I express myself?

When I entered eleventh grade we began doing Socratic seminars. You sit in a circle to discuss various topics, and you have to participate by talking. I had notes, but when it was my turn, I got nervous. I didn’t speak at all, so I got a failing grade. I went through about four seminars and didn't make a sound. Eventually, my teacher encouraged me to speak, because she viewed my notes and believed I had great ideas. When my classmate asked if anyone wanted to answer the question, out of nowhere I said "okay," and spoke. When I did, the room fell quiet. My leg was moving uncontrollably, but I felt good taking a step of confidence.

My first job was at Old Navy, and I was scared out of my mind. I walked in with a dry throat, without a thought that I would have to say a word. Someone came up to me, and asked, “can you help me find this?” and I said, “oh yeah I know where that is." I realized I was talking, and it felt great. It clicked that I was in a place full of strangers, so I didn't feel guilty for being myself. After a couple of weeks, I started taking chances by talking more to customers, and my coworkers made me feel more comfortable.

Growing up, I felt trapped by my silence. It felt like I didn't have the confidence other people showed. I felt like I didn’t have anyone who was like me, I didn’t understand how people felt comfortable expressing themselves without overthinking. Now that I have practiced speaking up, I believe that I can try more. I’ve started to contribute my ideas in group work without fear of being shut down. But improving my speaking doesn't mean that I have to become an extrovert. I found my own way of communicating, like speaking to my teachers at the end of class, rather than in front of my classmates. I learned how to speak up even in the littlest ways to find relief and success. I’m looking forward to a future where I continue to express myself with confidence.

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