Just Being Me

Charlotte - Niskayuna, New York
Entered on February 13, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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For the past ten years of my life, it has been apparent to me that I do not really “fit in” with my peers. It is not that I am a social misfit without a nice amount of friends—that has never been a problem. It is the mere fact that because I am a certain shade of brown with a certain type of hair—and that these characteristics do not seem to correspond with the stereotypes that people place upon them—I stand out from most people wherever I am. This bothered me when I was younger, especially whenever my differences seemed to be placed on the forefront. I used to be in constant battle with the person that loved who she really was, and with the person that felt odd either not looking the same as her peers or not being something people expected her to be. But as time went on, I formed the belief that in order to be my happiest, I need to forget about the commonalities I do not share with my peers, and continue to be myself.

As a little girl, I could get very self-conscious about being the only black student in class; after moving to Niskayuna from Schenectady School District, I experienced quite a culture shock. I remember receiving frequent questions like, “How does your hair stay like that?” and “Can I touch it?” as if I were some mysterious wonder. Back then I would appease their requests with the hope of fitting in more, but now I simply reply with “It just does,” and “No.” I does not matter to me if they look at me strangely or confused, because at this point, it is not my responsibility to relieve them of their ignorance—nor is it my duty to dwell on my differences as if they are a marvel and explain myself.

It would seem that I would fit in more with black kids, because the disparities between us do not seem as apparent. This is not the case. There were certain people at a camp I went to that declared, “You talk different,” and decided that it was strange and slightly unappealing. Apparently it is not cool to some to use proper grammar and rise above the “ghetto” stereotype that has been unjustly placed upon us. It bothered me that these people would not accept me for who I am and how I am raised, but now I realize that this occurrence it is not my problem. I do not have to fit into certain characteristics to prove my “blackness” or loyalty to my culture.

Since entering high school, I have learned to love, embrace, and cherish the things that set me apart from the people around me. I love who I am. I am proud to be different from everyone in this room, and proud to act the way that is most comfortable: like myself. Insecurity about what sets me apart from the rest is a shame—I am most satisfied when I just accept and love the fact that I am a fabulous pseudo-anomaly. That little girl that worried about this was not as content with herself as she is now. Happiness for me means an unquestionable acceptance of who I am, without trying to fit into the various groups of people with which I interact. The most important thing is that I understand who I am, and stay true to what that is.