The Moment I Realized My Life Has No Purpose (Common App)

I’ve always struggled with the concept of having a purpose in life. Learning about life in biology increased these existential questions, and having conversations with friends with different viewpoints only confused me more. I always wondered why humans feel that everything’s purpose on this earth is to serve us. This past year, I found music that helped me grow more comfortable with the possibility that we have no purpose in life. While this realization is not necessarily profound, it has put my mind at ease; I am finally able to provide myself with the proof I needed to convince myself that life very well may be purposeless.

    We have a very limited definition of life. In biology, something is considered “living” if it fits the specific criteria of a simple list. Viruses have DNA and are capable of reproducing, and evolving, but because they aren’t made of cells and can’t maintain homeostasis, respond to stimuli, or grow and develop, we don’t consider them living. This upset me because no matter who I asked, none of my teachers could tell my why they exist. They just float around, occasionally infecting specific cells and reproducing, but they’re not alive? After looking into it, I found an article on BBC titled There are Over 100 Definitions for Life and All of Them are Wrong, and as it turns out, some scientists do consider viruses as living organisms. However, the fact that viruses essentially have no purpose for existing didn’t bother me as much as how much it contradicts our own purpose in life. I would often wonder why I felt so confident that no other organism had an evident purpose in life, yet I continued to insist to myself that humans must. Of course, it makes sense that either everything has purpose, or nothing does, and all the evidence so far points to the latter. However I am still stubbornly struggling with the misconception that life picks favorites; a select few organisms graced to have meaningful lives. After hearing the line “There are 7 billion, 46 million people on this planet/ and I have the audacity to think I matter/ I know it’s a lie, but I prefer it to the alternative” in the song Tiny Glowing Screens Pt. 2 by Watsky, it dawned on me that my life really could be just as meaningless as everything around me. I vividly remember the thought that crossed my mind: Oh, the reason I can never justify my own purpose in life is because I don’t have one. Which makes the most sense, seeing that I can never find a purpose for anything else. I was outside when I felt this shift in the core of my beliefs, and I find that being outside always helps me come to terms with insignificance.

    Online articles aren’t always as engaging as discussions, which is why I occasionally bring up these questions that seem to always hang over me when I am with close friends. One of my favorite talks was with my catholic friend, who was able to share her view on our purpose in life. She described how her religion can offer her life meaning because she can always strive to be happy and fulfill God’s intentions for her, which is to care for others and proclaim her religion. However, I appreciate her versatility because she was also able to take a look at life from an existential perspective. She explained that it’s possible that life truly has no meaning and her religion is just something we created in order to give purpose to our own lives. After having talks like this, I feel emotionally exhausted, yet eager to know the truth. I often end up mulling over the conversation for a few days before deciding there’s no way I can ever be sure. At this point, I’ll usually bring it up with another friend who has a more cynical view of life. In our conversations, she always comes across as comfortable with the concept of having no purpose, meanwhile I stay sure of myself that we are an anomaly in life as purposeful beings. I ask her why we seem to have a higher level of consciousness than other beings, and I ask how we acquired it. I ask her that if we are made up of living cells, can we be considered a single living being, or is our consciousness coming from every cell in our body? These are not questions she can answer, in fact no one has been able to help me with this. That is, until I found Watsky. In his song Talking to Myself, he sings “There were these pure arresting moments/ when you stepped outside…/ the need to get it, get it, you will/ never get it, that’s okay.” I found this line especially comforting because I was constantly pondering everything around me, and these questions of mine only brought me more grief.

Another way I considered rationalizing my own purpose was by giving purpose to everything else, in such a way that it favored my existence. Many people agree that animals exist to feed us, which gives them a purpose they otherwise lack. Additional self-centered views of the world could include that trees exist to produce oxygen, specifically for humans, and water, which we biologically define as non-living, exists to provide us with nutrients. This kind of thinking is second nature to humans, it only makes sense I would try it out. Until proven otherwise by Nicolaus Copernicus, we were the center of the universe, following a geocentric model. Even today, we continue to give little thought to the consequences of our actions; we destroy forests, pollute our air and water, all for self-gain. By assigning purposes to my world, I was able to solidify my own purpose. However, this method did not satisfy me for long, instead it raised the concern: if everything is special, then nothing is. I could also never find a purpose for everything, which, from an objective view, is a pretty large task I set out to do at the age of 17. I always ended up with the conclusion that nothing has a purpose, which before hearing that song, did not ease my discomfort. I now realize that it makes sense that I always ended up in the same meaningless dead end; as of today, it is the truth that I will define my life with.

I find it curious that we as humans are so concerned with finding a purpose in life, meanwhile there are unicellular organisms unaware of their own existence, even as they perform the same functions we do at the microscopic level. It is almost comical, with so many of us scrambling about, trying to find something that was never there. I am occasionally able to acknowledge that none of this matters, or, to quote Watsky, “nothing matters, so it doesn’t matter if nothing matters.” This has always been my go-to way of thinking when I become overwhelmed because it has never failed to calm my never ending stream of impossible questions. I can always answer the question “does it matter?” with confidence, and I therefore ask it the most. Even so, with my newfound perspective, I can answer some of my own questions for myself. Curiously enough, I know it won’t be long until I am plagued by more onerous questions, which I will feel an insatiable desire to answer.

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Labels and Words Will Break My Bones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will surely hurt me as well. The power of words is often ignored, we claim that words will never hurt us and yet we define ourselves with labels and we have assigned names to every aspect of life. In Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, the power of labels pushes the story forward, enforcing the belief that labels and words drive our actions much more than we think they do. Milkman is plagued by his embarrassing name for most of his life, Pilate carries her name with her religiously, and even we limit ourselves with labels.

Nicknames are a common trend throughout Song of Solomon. Milkman’s name gives him and his father much shame, and his son’s name is one of the reasons why Macon Dead II is so distant. Guitar’s name is what defines him when he first meets Pilate, it’s a first impression he cannot shake. On the topic of Pilate, she carries her name in a box on her ear, because she knows the importance of naming things. As How to Write About Toni Morrison, elaborates, Pilate has the strongest sense of self compared to all the characters because she owns her name, and therefore owns herself. Milkman however, does not begin to be “reborn” until he learns the story of his past, and how it all relates to the poem, Song of Solomon. In an essence, learning the names of his past free Milkman, symbolized by his leap at the end of the novel. Flying throughout the entire novel is a symbol of freedom. In the beginning, the Mr. Smith commits suicide by jumping off the hospital roof, planning to “fly away on his own wings.” This flight of Mr. Smith will release him from the restraints of life, freeing him from the labels his skin color have put on him.

In the same way that Milkman is negatively labeled as a mama’s boy, we pin labels on ourselves and others that define us. According to Psychology Today, researches didn’t start studying the effects of labeling until the 1930s, when Benjamin Whorf proposed the linguistic relativity hypothesis. According to Whorf, the words we use to describe what we see are not just placeholders, they actually determine what we see. In Toni Morrison’s nobel lecture in 1993, she discusses the importance of language. She mentions the dangers of language when it is misused, how it can be violent. When we begin to use language to restrict ourselves, to restrict others, it becomes very harmful. When we call others names, we are defining their limits; how much they can achieve, how greatly they will fail. Labeling others is another way to misuse language, and it occurs often in Morrison’s novel.

The labeling of blacks and whites is a recurring struggle the characters of Song of Solomon have to work through. Guitar claims that being white is enough to define all white people, and therefore any white person deserves to pay for a crime that a specific white person committed. Milkman has a skewed view of what it means to be black, and is often alienated from his own culture. In fact, in order to finally be comfortable with himself and the labels that define him, Milkman must first learn the names of his ancestors. Milkman values the names so much because they help him feel closer to his origins. In an interview with Toni Morrison, she discusses the importance of naming things, saying “Each thing is separate and different; once you have named it, you have power.” Therefore, if you can name yourself, as Pilate did, or learn the meaning of your name and ancestors, as Milkman did, you can begin to have power over your life.

As Shane Koyczan expresses in his poem To This Day, the rhyme that claims names will never hurt us is wrong, they will. Words hold so much power, they are what drive Milkman throughout his journey of rebirth, they give power to Pilate, and they also tear us down everyday. That is why it is so important to be using language effectively. In the case of Song of Solomon, language is there to connect Milkman with his family, to share the stories of his ancestors. We must do the same. In order to use language not as a tool of destruction but as a tool creation, we should use words to share experiences, to tell stories. Enough definitions, labels, and limits. From now on, words are powerful not because of how we use them to hurt one another, but instead because of how they connect us to one another.

 

Works Cited

Alter, Adam. “Why It’s Dangerous to Label People.” Psychology Today, Sussex, 17 May 2010, http://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/adam-alter. This is a good secondary source for my essay. It specifically discusses how labeling people as “black” is harmful which I can use when discussing labels in Song of Solomon. I also like how it talks about the research done by Benjamin Whorf, I plan on incorporating that in my essay as well.

 

Burton, Zisca Isabel, and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison. E-book, New York, Chelsea House, 2008. I already wrote this. In the chapter on Song of Solomon in Bloom’s How to Write About Toni Morrison, Bloom provides the reader with many helpful strategies on writing literary analyses. He discusses how to stay away from basic summaries, and instead think critically. He provides the reader with essay topics and strategies that directly relate to the themes he also discusses. I plan on reading the suggested text, the Tanakh, as it is a direct reference to the title of the book. He also provides in-depth descriptions of the characters that will help me further my analysis. He provides various themes explored in the Toni Morrison’s novel that will help my understanding of the book.

 

Morrison, Toni. “The Language Must Not Sweat.” Interview by Thomas Leclair. New Republic, 20 Mar. 1981, newrepublic.com/article/95923/the-language-must-not-sweat. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017. This will be really helpful as it is includes Toni Morrison’s own opinions and thoughts on her book. I have decided on my question and it will surround the idea of the importance of names, as shown through the novel Song of Solomon, and the interview has an entire section where Morrison talks about naming in the book. She discusses why she chose certain names which I can use to explain the importance of names in the real world. She also mentions how naming things gives you power over it, which I would like to explore in terms of labels. I think this will lead me to do further research on labels, which won’t necessarily focus on the novel itself but rather problems in the world.

 

—. “Nobel Lecture.” 7 Dec. 1993, Stockholm, Sweden. Lecture. In her speech, Toni Morrison directly discusses the power of language, which is what I aim to focus my paper on. The fact that it is coming from Morrison herself is beneficial to my essay because she is the most credible source when discussing her literature. I especially want to utilize her attention to how language can be violent, and use that to show how the labels in Song of Solomon are limiting.

 

—. Song of Solomon. New York, Vintage International, 2004. This will be my most helpful source, because I can directly cite the book and use it as a primary source. The characters Milkman, Macon Dead II, and Pilate will be most helpful as their characters struggle with identity and the importance of names. I can use their experiences and superimpose them onto the real world, where I can include outside research.

 

Rebuttal for Campus Carry Editorial

Dear Dennis McCuistion,

In your editorial discussing Senate Bill 11, you state that campus carry will make college campuses safer. Increasing the number of guns, however, does not simultaneously decrease the number of times those guns are used. In fact, campus carry does the opposite of what you suggest; it promotes gun violence and risks the lives of anyone on a college campus. What we should really be focusing on is decreasing gun violence without necessarily increasing the amount of people carrying guns.

In June 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB11, allowing any CHL holders to carry a weapon to class. The fact that you believe this will prevent gun violence suggest that you are anticipating gun violence, and that your big plan to combat gun violence is more gun violence. You state that the law wants to help prevent mass killings on university campuses. I can think of multiple, more effective ways to prevent the unnecessary deaths of innocent students and college professors. The first would be tighter gun-control laws. The fact that there is a direct link between gun ownership and firearm homicide, as shown in a 2013 publication in the American Journal of Public Health, cannot be ignored. Arguing against this by bringing up your CDC research and the different types of gun related deaths completely misses the point of your own editorial. If we are going to defend SB11 as a method of preventing gun violence on campuses, what good does it do to point out that not all gun violence are mass shootings. All of these numbers you toss into your argument are still human lives that are being lost at alarming rates. Additionally, the data you provide does not even add up, as you claim that the CDC reports 33,878 deaths, but then proceed to provide the following data: 11,208 firearm related homicides, 21,175 suicides, and 505 accidents, which adds up to 10 higher than the initial CDC report. Provided that you cannot relay simple numbers into your own argument, it is difficult to trust any of the other data you claim is accurate throughout your opinion piece. Besides, at a certain point this discussion goes beyond universities; it becomes a discussion of morality and whether or not we want to decrease the amount of gun violence everywhere.

This brings me to my second method of preventing shootings on college campuses. Keeping track of students’ and professors’ mental health as frequently as physical health would not only help decrease risk factors, but maintain a healthier populace in general. As Professor Emeritus Daniel Hamermesh pointed out, professors of large classes cannot possibly keep track of the warning signs coming from any one of their students. If students will be allowed to have guns on campus, as SB11 allows, they should be required to have mental check-ups along with physical check-ups. You mention that it is unlikely that CHL holders are unlikely to be involved in criminal activities, however the UCLA Higher Education Research Institution found that college students’ mental health is at its lowest since 1985. Jeffrey Swanson, a medical sociologist and professor of psychiatry at Duke University, performed a study that proved there is a link between the mentally unstable and violence, but continues to encourage fair treatment and non-discrimination. Therefore, the CHL holders at college campuses are much more at risk than the CHL holders that you reference in your piece. Providing counseling for students would therefore be great way to prevent gun violence, as well as improve their quality of life as a whole.

It is essential for the progression of society that we are able to recognize flaws and correct them. It is unacceptable that any lives must be lost due to loose regulations on guns that when there are so many ways to prevent these deaths. Why hand out more guns in hopes that a random CHL holder will be able to kill an attacker in a dangerous situation. Why not prevent someone capable of committing mass murder from ever reaching that point. We should be creating sustainable solutions, starting with tighter gun control laws and improving each other’s mental health. Increasing the number of guns being carried around in order to prevent gun violence is hardly a solution, and would only work from case to case.  We can either fight fire with fire, or we can use water to put it out altogether.

Sincerely,

Lily Yepez

 

Crisp, John M. “Arms in Class Too Risky for One Prof.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas], 2 Oct. 2015. Dallas News, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2015/10/12/john-m.-crisp-arms-in-class-too-risky-for-one-prof.

Kitzrow, Martha Anne. “The Mental Health Needs of Today’s College Students: Challenges and Recommendations.” NASPA, vol. 41, no. 1, 2 Dec. 2003, pp. 167-81. Ebsco Student Research Center, naspa.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.2202/1949-6605.1310?scroll=top&needAccess=true. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Konnikova, Maria. “Is There a Link between Mental Health and Gun Violence?” The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/almost-link-mental-health-gun-violence. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Siegel, Michael, et al. “The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010.” AM J Public Health, Nov. 2013. National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828709/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Response to Citizen Proposal

I would like my project to be a 3D representation of the black American’s vessel and compare it to the white American’s vessel. I plan to show this with flower vases and they will each be filled uniquely based on verses from Citizen as well as outside information. I would provide an artist’s statement in order to explain the inspiration for each vessel, as well as some excerpts from Citizen that will emphasize the impact my response will have on the audience.

I plan on focusing on vessels in my response; how memories are vessels for our feelings, as suggested in Citizen.  I want to show the audience the stark differences in the everyday experiences of two different types of American citizens, using the various examples in Rankine’s book.

My ideal audience would be ignorant Americans who are unaware of the constant racism African Americans face, in hopes of helping them become more aware and more understanding of citizens who are not mirror images of themselves.

However, a more reasonable audience will be middle schoolers who attend my school because I can be sure that my message will reach them. 

 

Uncle Sam Propaganda Opticc Report

This poster is important to the Contemporary time period, 1900 CE-Present, because it represents the political and social structures of this time period, nationalism and militarism. It is important that people recognize that this poster represents the war-related propaganda in the United States near the beginning of this time period. This portrait of “Uncle Sam” is relevant today because it went on to become–according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg–“the most famous poster in the world.” Most people are able to associate this poster to this time period, making it a great symbol of the Contemporary time period.

Overview- This poster focuses on Uncle Sam, with a few words about joining the U.S. Army. This poster is trying to encourage young men to enlist themselves into the army. It portrays joining the army as fulfilling one’s duty, making it propaganda.

Parts- The most noticeable part of this poster is Uncle Sam, pointing at the viewer. He has a stern look on his face, giving his message a more serious, important tone. Below his portrait are the words “I Want YOU For U.S. Army / Nearest Recruiting Station,” which are directed at the viewer. The poster is bordered with red, white, and blue stripes, and on that note, the entire poster follows the same color scheme, bearing the United States’ colors. His star spangled hat, his red bow tie, his blue jacket, he symbolizes the U.S. with the intention of being eye-catching.

Title- Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly, this image had the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?,” which perfectly represents the message this poster is trying to convey. The title tells the reader that the poster will probably suggest something that they can do in order to be “prepared” as the title states. The title is therefore suggesting that to be fully prepared for war, one must enlist in the army and defend their country.

Interpretation- This poster is meant to depict the political and social ideals of this time. The message of this poster is simple: Join the army, it is the most honorable choice. We can justify that it is honorable because it is none other than Uncle Sam who needs us. Also, because the title asks us what are we doing to be prepared, this poster isn’t necessarily only aimed at people who can join the army right away. For example, it may also be targeting young boys, planting the idea in their heads now that in the future they should join the army. It also plants the idea in other people that can’t join the army, that they should still be doing something to be prepared for war.

Context- In all of the Great powers, military spending increased greatly in the years prior to the war. The rivalry between the powers to have the best military led to a building up of weapons and an increase in distrust. Allied to this growing militarism was an intense nationalism in most of the Great powers. The desire for world power status was very popular in Germany. The French desire for revenge over Alsace and Lorraine was very strong. In Britain, Imperialism and support for the Empire was very evident. This nationalism meant that there was little resistance to war in these countries. Russia was very nationalistic, their slavic culture brought the citizens together. On the same note, Russia was willing to defend other Slavic peoples from different nations, so when Austria-Hungary declared war on the Slavic state of Serbia, the Soviet Union stepped in, hoping to defend and gain control over the Balkan States. Thus, World War I began in 1914, and the United States stood idly by until 1917. Over four million copies of this Uncle Sam propaganda were printed between 1917 and 1918, starting when the United States entered World War I, allied with the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia, along with Italy who also joined late like the U.S.) and began sending troops and materials into war zones.

Conclusion- This poster depicts the ideals shared by the Great powers at the beginning of this time period, and consequently, the ideals of most nations today. It shows that the government was trying to encourage its citizens to join the Army, and that propaganda was popular and widely used. This is important to what we are studying because this Uncle Sam poster is directly caused by a major event, World War I, and is also direct evidence of the militarism and nationalism that presented themselves in the early 1900s and have continued since then to present day.

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri Opticc Report

This painting by George Caleb Bingham is important to the Modern Period, 1750-1900 CE, because it refers to trade, settlement, the (new) nation’s north-south axis—the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers—and the issue of race in America. It is important that people recognize that this painting represents the Modern Period in America because the issues this painting deals with were all large factors in the life of an American at this time. This painting is relevant today because it shows how native and foreign American inhabitants along the upper reaches of the Missouri drifted toward the embrace of the modern, urbanized world, making it a great reference to the start of the Modern Period.

Overview- This painting is a beautiful scene of fur traders traveling down the Missouri River, and it can be read from left to right—against the flow of the Missouri—from the native bear cub chained to the boat’s prow, to the man at the stern, a straight line from the beast to civilized humanity. This image symbolizes the path to the Modern Period.

Parts- The most noticeable part in this piece is the boat with the fur traders on it, and I’ve separated it into three parts, the bear, the boy, and the man. The native bear cub will probably be sold for it’s fur, and we later see that the boy rests on the fur pelts; fur trade being a large part of the economy. The man at the stern of the boat stares at the viewer with a somewhat sad expression, whereas the young man appears content. We can also see the young man holds a rifle and there is a dead duck laying beside him, suggesting he has recently shot the duck with said rifle, and is smiling perhaps because he is content with his shot. The river they float in is the Missouri. There is a rock jutting out from the water as well as some branches, adding a more naturesque feel to the river. There appears to be an island or land with trees behind the subjects, all of which is blanketed by a cloudy, yet not gloomy, sky.

Title- The title of this piece is Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, which explains that this piece focuses on a large part of America’s economy. George Bingham himself called the picture “French-Trader—Half Breed Son,” emphasizing the painting’s racial exoticism. However, the managers of the American Art-Union in New York, where he sent it for exhibition, chose to show it under its present title, which transformed the trader and his son into generalized western types. Both titles, previous and current, prepare the viewer to expect fur traders on the surface, but a great history lying hidden  in the depths of the Missouri river they travel on.

Interpretation- This entire image shows much more than a trader and his son, it shows a history of revolutions and the mixing of races, etc. The bear cub is a symbol for humanity’s wilder past, and as explained in the overview, the maturity progresses on the boat as we look from left to right. The native cub also symbolizes the movement of natives into new unknown places; this black bear cub will probably be sold for its fur, which could also symbolize the slavery still occurring in the beginning of Modern America.  The boy is a symbol of the newly independent United States of America, as he is called “mixed-race” by Bingham, the adolescent exemplifies the mixing of races, although what really happened is most natives were moved to reservations. The man is a symbol of the older generations during this time period, his solemn expression perhaps represents the revolutions and wars he has witnessed occur. The message of this piece of art is that The United States have entered a period of modernization where the best is yet to come.

Context- This painting takes place along the Missouri River in North America, shortly after The United State’s fight for and declaration of independence from the British. The States have a history with the fur trade, dating back to their colonial times when they were still ruled by the British royalty. The French also participated in the fur trade, as many beavers were in Canada where they hunted for fur, which explains why Bingham described the traders to have French origins. It is quite possible after the Seven Years War that occurred during this time period these fur traders’ family became citizens of the American Colonies, and later during the American Revolution, citizens of the United States. This time period involves revolutions all around the world, the most successful being the French Revolution. The Haitians also experienced a revolution in which the slaves expelled all the Blancs— both grand and petite— as they called them, from the island, but it eventually caused their economic and political systems to weaken. All of these revolutions were leading to a more modernized world, and they were caused by the Enlightenment, which was when everyone started thinking differently yet again.

Conclusion- This painting depicts two humble fur traders expanding their ancient world into a modern one. It shows that the artists of this time were recognizing the great changes the revolutions had led to, and that Bingham in particular believed these changes were leading to a more sophisticated, mature world. This is important to what we are studying because it highlights a major part of the economy at this time period and hints at the revolutions occurring during this time period.

 

Bolivia’s American Granddaughter

When I was younger, I told myself that when I was a baby, my skin was white, and that the only reason it was dark now was because I got tan. I was darker than my friends, my dad was darker than my friends’ dads. I clearly remember realizing my dad would always be different and feeling upset about it. I never tried to show my disgrace in being brown, but I never felt sorry about it either. My reality was that most of my friends and playmates had light skin, and what I saw in them affected how I saw myself. 

Still at the elementary age, I was constantly lying to myself that I was just like my friends. Sure I was on the inside, but as often as everyone said “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” it just wasn’t true. Sometimes in the shower I would scrub my skin raw, trying to rub away the brown. My skin would turn out red when I got out, and I would think “maybe it’s working.” I treated myself like the color of my skin like dirt that needed to be washed away, like I was never clean enough because my skin wasn’t light. I clearly needed some dark skinned friends, but the limited few in my elementary grade were not the type of kids I wanted to be friends with. I wasn’t trying to be racist, it wasn’t their skin color that held me back, I simply didn’t like them. I was only racist towards myself, and this self-racism was only influenced by my own comparisons between my skin color and the children I surrounded myself with. This idea was my very own, planted there by no one else but me.

This difference in skin color between me and my friends eventually bothered me less. In the sixth grade, I realized that being Bolivian made me unique, but also that no one cared. I have a vivid memory exemplifying the ignorance that I realized was invading my life. I walked into my law teacher’s 1st period class to ask him a question, and as I left a group of kids asked me “what are you?” I didn’t know what they meant, and they clarified, “like are you Mexican?” and in response to my simple “no,” they asked if I wasn’t Mexican, what was I? That was the most annoying question I ever heard, so I ended up letting them ponder if other countries with brown skinned people existed instead. Nevertheless, that is when I realized, if I wasn’t Mexican, I wasn’t anything, despite my background or skin color. 

This example has come up many times in my life, reminding me that the people I come across in life really don’t take much interest in what is different, they don’t take much interest in me. In 9th grade, my little sister was interviewing me for the sixth grade paper she had to write on me, and she asked where I was from, and I let her know about my dad being from Bolivia. She did not know where it was, and I explained how it was close to Brazil, a country much more relevant, apparently. I have compared my dad to Brazilians countless times, and I finally felt bad about it. I have gotten used to saying “…Bolivia, it’s close to Brazil, in South America,” and when the few people are embarrassed that I thought they didn’t know where Bolivia was, it makes my day a little. I don’t blame my sixth grade sister’s for not knowing where Bolivia was, but when she proceeded to say, “I’ll just say he is Brazilian,” I was reminded again how little people care about what I consider unique. It was astonishing to me that she would write that, Brazil and Bolivia are two completely different countries, but changing the facts to make them somehow easier to understand is somehow a good idea? It was a bad day.

Now in high school, I’m told that I’m white, oh how the ignorance lives! I would have loved to been told that as a small child, but now the tables have turned. Now my skin is lighter than some of my friends’, and as it seems, in this world of teenagers, if I don’t speak Spanish, if I am different than someone’s version of hispanic, I am just white. I face it everyday, it is not new to feel like people really don’t care that half of my family lives in Bolivia. Visiting them is considered a “vacation,” whereas if I was visiting them in Mexico, the sole reason I am visiting the country is dismissed and it is a whole different experience.

I have been to my father’s country three times. When I am on the street with my mother, I stand out, when I am on the street with my father, I blend in, another brown face in a sea of brown skin. We would walk everywhere, and I wasn’t ashamed to walk ahead of my family in attempts to fit in. I wanted so badly for people to not even glance at me, not because I was shy, but because I wanted to be one of them, a little brown fish on the Bolivian streets, a tiny part of that whole ocean. And I did a great job, no one called me gringa, no one looked at me longer than they needed to in order to not walk into me. I was standing in front of a huge cathedral, and tried to go in with everyone else, but they weren’t letting people in at that time. Yet to me, it was more, they weren’t letting in the Bolivians, the ones visiting as they did everyday, and I was one of them, not a simple tourist. This desire to fit in comes naturally to me, in Bolivia especially; I shed my uniqueness like a dirty layer of skin. I wanted to be the whole of Bolivia, not the American granddaughter of Bolivia.

Still, I acknowledge that feeling unique in the eyes of my peers is important to me, but I also realize that accepting my uniqueness is even more important. I knew I was different from the start, but now I know it’s not my fault. It could also be argued that I am really no different than anyone else, I am just another child from just another pair of parents, but neither point of view is the correct one. The only view of myself that matters is my own, and that view will constantly change, based on not just my surroundings, but how I perceive them as well.