Monday, May 9, 2011

The Bi-Racial & Bi-Collegiate Identity

I’m half Puerto Rican and half white.

I’ve come to appreciate both sides of this part of my identity. I love country music and black beans and white rice.  Sometimes we had fried chicken and tostones for dinner. I got all A’s in my Spanish classes but could never get the accent perfect. I am not very good at camping.

I never really thought about myself as bi-racial until college. Suddenly there was a plethora of diversity around me, and people grouped themselves together based on a variety of identity associations. I was especially struck by how proud people were of their cultures, their heritage, and their language.

I have found that most people also develop that kind of pride about where they went to college.  

But when you go to community college, this can be difficult. Not only do their names change from junior to community to state, but you spend a quick 2 years in a place where you build bonds, have an incredible experience, identify with a variety of clubs and organizations, and then leave and it’s time to try again.

I imagine some people are quick to link up with their new universities and create a sense of pride as universities are more equipped with sports and alumni associations and residential life that typically lend itself to this kind of community.

I can also easily understand why people continue to latch so strongly to those collegiate identities, especially after college. For one, college is fun and having something in which to root for, to bond over, creates a rare sense of community, especially in our increasingly technological world. 

However, when your identities feel split in a million different directions, and especially once you graduate college and have to add some kind of career identity, you may feel more torn apart than ever.

I did.

When I graduated college I did feel that identity crisis they talk about happening in your 20’s (see one of my favorite books and websites by Christine Hassler), and I often wished I had something to latch on to, to root for, to feel pride in, especially when I didn’t have a job and was wondering who the heck I was going to be when I grew up.

And then, I read a phrase in the book 20-Something 20-Everything, and in it the author asked “how often do people ask you what do you want to do?” And why aren’t we ever asked “what do you love about yourself?”

And then I realized what I love about myself is that I’m bi-racial. And that I had the privilege of attending an amazing community college that’s now a state college. And that I got to go to a really great university. And then  grad school. And then try out a few jobs and then work with students every day and write for fun.  

And I really like watching the ducks in my backyard. And I’m not funny but I’m a good audience for funny people. And I drink tea. And I love finding a good author and reading every book he/she ever wrote. And I love going to Disney, listening to people’s stories, wearing dresses, and the feeling I get when someone starts a conversation with me.

What do you love about yourself?

Write it down. And identify with it. Wear it proudly every day. 

And remember no matter where you go to college, where you come from, or what you do in your life, you will always be who you are, and you will always bring those gifts with you wherever you go

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