As I’ve shared many times, I was an anxious kid and continue to deal with quite a bit of anxiety. As I am getting older, I am coming to terms with different aspects of my anxiety and where it comes from. Recently, I have noticed that my anxiety and my identity might be more intertwined than I previously realized.
This month marks 2 years I have been living in my apartment. While to most my age, this would seem a rather ordinary landmark, for me it is somewhat of a feat. I haven’t been able to sit this long before. Since I graduated from college, I have lived in 3 different cities, rented 5 different apartments, and held 5 different jobs. In fact, other than school, I have shown a complete inability to sustain any aspect of life for even 2 years… not a goal, not a career path, and certainly not a meaningful relationship. While hitting this 2 year mark seems that it would indicate growth, rooted-ness, or even increased contentment, instead it is riddled with anxiety and unrest. And here’s why…
I’ve never been truly comfortable anywhere or with anyone. I used to think this meant there was something wrong with me, but as I dig deeper, I am learning there is something entirely different going on here. When I walk into a space, I never know what I am going to get. As a kid, other kids might insist I was adopted because I looked so differently from my mother, call me Brillo head or state I had pubic hair on my head because I had a fro, or children and adults alike would just blatantly stare. In college, it was hearing racial slurs because I was in the presence of people who didn’t know I was half black and constantly explaining my racial make-up. Then in adulthood, it’s people still attempting to ignore my blackness and/or whiteness to make themselves feel more comfortable, not include me because I don’t look quite right or get all the pop culture references, or include me because then they get to up their diversity quotient. In fact, it is so tiring, that I can’t believe I am just now realizing how stressful it is to not be able to walk into a job, or a church, or a store, or wherever it is you want to go without someone touching your hair without permission, making an ignorant comment that directly impacts you, or just downright making you feel like you don’t belong.
Believe me, I get it, my fair skin and mixed identity come with SO many privileges, beyond that I have the privilege of having both an undergraduate and graduate degree, excellent health, no disabilities, and the list goes on and on. I’m not afraid to own that. But… what I am coming to terms with as well is that I am not afraid to own that most of the time, in fact all of the time, I feel uncomfortable. Not with myself (though for a very long time that was the case) and who I was created to be, but more so the world and whether or not it has the capacity to receive me. I’ve reached a decision. It doesn’t… and I don’t have a clue as to what to do about it. Now, as evidence of that, here is the time when people chime in, “you do belong!” Except for the older I get I don’t know what’s worse, the people I don’t know being unbelievably hurtful or the people I do know and love making me feel crazy for sharing what has been true time and time again about my experience. Whether it is friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances, people are so uncomfortable with me being uncomfortable that they engage in tactics that make things even more uncomfortable for me just to ease a little of their discomfort. It is so confusing to be a little kid who is constantly being told you are “just like the rest of us” when all the while how you are being treated could not be farther from “the rest.”
All that to say, I don’t think the answer is moving and changing jobs every year and a half. I also don’t think the answer is holding people at arms length as I have often done. I do think sometimes the answer is saying “no” more boldly to situations in which I already have some awareness that I will not be received well. The answer can also be honesty when I’ve been hurt and refusing to be gas-lighted when I genuinely express that hurt. Part of the answer is certainly continuing to celebrate myself and fully enjoy and honor mixed-race spaces whenever I have the chance to be in them, regardless of how infrequent that may be.
I wish I could provide a happier ending. I wish I could be oblivious enough to think that there are more mixed people now and the world is becoming more welcoming of us. I especially wish I could believe that children of mixed-heritage were born into families that love and accept all angles of them and are leeched of all racist tendencies upon first glimpse of the beautiful child. I’ve lived too much of this uncomfortable life to buy into any of those fantasies. This, however, I do know to be true… discomfort will not kill you and it certainly can’t rob you of the joy of moving forward, that is if you don’t let it.
Cheers to the 2 year mark.