I am a woman, a daughter, a friend. I am multicultural. I am extremely religious, yet deeply secular. I am a fighter, and I am a pacifist. I am a dreamer, a realist, and a cynic. I am a tv-holic bookworm. I am perfectly imperfect, but first and foremost, I am a human being.
I was born outside of the United States, but growing up here I had the best of both worlds: cultural traditionalism and assimilative modernism. These are my labels. I was a walking contradiction. In college, I had my first true brush with judgment and labels. When I was in high school I was too busy studying to have a social life. I never had a niche and was friends with a little bit of everyone, but always on a surface level. It never got below the tip of the iceberg and I had an air of reservation that kept people from getting too close, which was fine with me.
Moving to college, I got to experience a freedom like no other. I was so excited that I went in guns blazing. Completely uncensored. I was me. And I was judged. I was labeled. I “tried too hard.” I was “fake.” I was a “wannabe.” Letting that guard drop was a feeling of vulnerability unlike anything I have experienced. I got used to it. I was a take-it or leave-it kind of person and if I was judged, so be it. No one truly knew me, so what else could they do but label me with the brief perception of myself that I had allowed them to glimpse.
I am empowered to be myself only with my close circle of friends. They know that while I seem ambitious, goal-oriented, career-focused, I would be perfectly content being a housewife and focusing my attentions on a husband and kids, with a lot of volunteer work through organizations and charities in the community. I want to make a difference, but it doesn’t have to be a big one- even if I help ten people out in small ways, I’d feel accomplished. Because of my reserved nature and keeping people at arm’s length, the first impression people get of me is that I’m bitchy and self-centered. I actually enjoy meeting new people. I love hearing about their experiences and sharing mine. I’m also a total softie. I can cry at a really emotional song or while watching a movie.
People also don’t know that I’m a product of abuse. The stigma that comes with that is something I battled through my freshman year of college, which added to my overzealous efforts, but I have since then come to terms with what happened. I forgave and have hopefully been forgiven for whatever wrong I did to anyone.
I battle with my self-image. I was poked fun at for being overweight and a lot of that criticism came from my family. That has resulted in insecurities about my body. I know I’m capable, smart, kind, loving, but many times all of that good is eclipsed by the fact that I have a belly and thick thighs. I still resent that aspect of my culture, as well as my family, for making me feel less than complete because of it.
I own all my labels, good and bad. You might see me one way. You see it because of preconceived notions or because I may have done something to perpetuate them. I can’t fault you for those. Keep them. Because I have made mistakes, I am a human being. Because of my imperfections, I am a human being. Because I care and try, I am a human being. Because I dream and hope, I am a human being. Because I worry and cry, I am a human being. Because I am imperfect, I am a human being. Each of these things is a testament to the fact that I am first and foremost, a human being.
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication, The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story.