Using my identity crisis as my strength

What does it mean to be {insert whatever ethnic identity label given to you}?

This is a question I posted on Instagram a couple days ago and sparked conversations in our community but got me thinking deeper.

In my travels, I’ve learned identity changes based on where you are and who you’re with.

When I’m in white circles I am the Latina, usually the token.

When I’m in my latinx circles I’m the Guatemalan. When I’m in Guatemala, I’m the gringa.

When I’m abroad I’m the Americans or the New Yorker and so ethnically ambiguous that I can be mistaken for countless of nationalities .

It can be intersectional, in which we belong to various groups, and it can be imposed on us.

For example, I am a feminist, I am a techy stem lover, I am a nerd, an academic, a child of immigrants, a millennial, a latina, a basic suburbanite.

Are these exclusive and not allowed to overlap? Does my being latina mean I cannot be a nerd?

Identity can be so complicated especially when it comes to ethnicity. When you’re an immigrant or a child of diaspora in a new land you belong to many different worlds telling you who you’re supposed to be.

Poverty added to this struggle, not having the means and tools to identify and verbalize what it was that I had felt. Not having the resources to address mental illness and thus adding another layer to my identity.

I never felt like I belonged anywhere.

From both outsiders and those of that group, we are told who we are supposed to be. Outsiders tell us we don’t belong , that our families do not have the right to be here that we are not american. Then on the inside we’re told how we’re supposed to act. What we are supposed to like or dislike. We are told we are too light, too dark, too black, too indigenous.

We are told how were supposed to sound, what colloquial mannerisms we should or should not have. The skills we should have. (Sorry, but for the life of me I will never be able to dance and memorize anything but a 2 step bachata )

I understand the importance of celebrating and being part of a community. Growing up however , I distanced myself from my own community because I felt I was not welcome, because my interests did not align with what a latina woman should like or want .

However as an adult, I’ve found comfort in knowing that I’m not alone and have found people who I can identify. Whom have also decided to forge their own path even when it doesn’t adhere to what we’re supposed to follow.

I’ve found other dare I say, basic brown nerds, who had once felt like I had. Who went ahead and maybe even battled with their identity and on the end we came out being unique but finding each other .

I grew up having an identity crisis , not finding perfect boxes check off and not fitting into other’s boxes and ideas of me. Always checking “other” on forms but always being the other in the circles I was in.

I used to wish I could just be normal, I could just fit in. That I could just blend into the crowd and just belong somewhere. Why did I have to be so weird?

Now as an adult, as a traveler, a woman in tech, but overall as an “other”. I realize how lucky I am because this has made me resilient and let me be able to move within different circles.

Overall, this has benefitted me in my professional life and in my personal life.

But most of all it has allowed me the opportunity to connect with hundreds of people all over the world, both in person and online, that have felt like this at some point in time. That might still feel like this and realizing this isn’t just a crisis unique to me.

It reminds me, that we are human, that across the world we undergo similar questions and struggles on your journey. In a strange way it reminds me that we’re not so different in the end.

So, what has your “identity crisis” taught you and how can you turn that into something constructive in your life?

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